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Uncertainty over Plan projects

By N.J. Nair

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JAN. 23. Uncertainty over completion of ongoing projects and anticipation of a further cut in Plan funds have bogged down the implementation and preparation of Plan projects of local bodies.

Heads of civic bodies are in a dilemma over submitting projects for the coming year before the deadline set by the Government on March 31, sources said.

The Government has already effected a 13.5 per cent cut and heads of local bodies are expecting another 10 per cent cut soon. Unless the Government comes clear on the issue, it will be difficult to complete ongoing projects and prepare new ones in a time-bound manner. In the event of another cut in Plan funds, allocation for each sector on a priority basis will be disrupted and many projects will either have to be shelved or have to be put off. Shelving projects approved by grama sabhas is not practical either. Those preparing the projects would not have an idea about the spillover projects, sources said.

Though the Government had reiterated that disbursal of Plan funds had been exempted from the curbs on treasury payments, district treasuries still refused to make payments of local bodies in a systematic manner citing flimsy reasons, they said.

Bill system

When the Government introduced bill system for payments as per the recommendations of the State Finance Commission, the authority to draw funds from treasuries was restricted to secretaries of local bodies. Subsequently, it was extended to the implementing officers too. The Government had issued orders on the extension of powers, but the district treasuries were denying payment on the ground that the order had not yet reached the authorities concerned.

Similarly, restrictions had been placed on the payment of funds in the Village Panchayat Fund account. This amounted to an informal ban on payments, sources said. With the introduction of the bill system, the Government has also introduced a number of forms that the implementing officers have to furnish to draw funds from treasuries. The forms for authorisation and requisition of payments, proceedings of the drawing and disbursing officer, appropriation, income and expenditure, and allotment register are some of them. Panchayats deposited the cost of the forms to the press in advance, but the forms have not been supplied so far. This has led to acute shortage. Treasury officials refuse to accept duplicate forms to draw money from the panchayat accounts. This has left many ongoing projects in a limbo. Payments for projects in the service sector were being made through the bills and now it had all come to a standstill, sources said.

Meanwhile, official sources said the Government had insisted on submitting the projects before March 31 to ensure that the civic bodies got sufficient time to implement them without wasting the funds. Now, the approval of the projects by the District Planning Committee is delayed up to September. Prompt action had been taken to lift the curbs on treasury payments, sources said.

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