CHENNAI: If you have been one of those paying the Secondary and Higher Education Cess (SHEC), then here’s some bad news for you. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India stated on Friday that it was not “transparently ascertainable” if the funds were utilised towards the reason for the levy, or even utilised at all.
The CAG stated in a report released on Friday that while Rs 73,468.52 crore was collected between 2006 - 2016, it was not clear if the funds were used. “It is observed that unlike the creation of Prarambhik Siksha Kosh in the case of primary/elementary education cess, neither a Fund was designated to deposit the proceeds of SHEC thereto nor schemes were identified on which the cess proceeds were to be spent. Consequently, the commitment of furthering Secondary and Higher Education Cess as envisaged in the
Finance Act was not transparently ascertainable,” observed the CAG. Another severely underutilised fund is the Research and Development Cess, which aggregated to Rs 6,698.30 crore, collected during 1996-97 to 2015-16. “Out of this only Rs 579.16 crore (8.65 per cent) was utilised towards the objectives of levying the said cess,” the CAG pointed out. Both cesses and their use have been repeatedly red flagged by the CAG, also featuring in the report tabled in December 2015 for underutilisation.
The CAG noted several other inconsistencies, pulling up the Central Board of Direct Taxes for an expenditure on interest on refunds amounting to Rs 7,704 crore without the prior approval of the Parliament. The Constitution of India provides that no money should be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund of India except under appropriation made by law. The CAG also highlighted the lack of transparency in the system.