Two years ago the CAG pointed out a gross irregularity committed by the R&B Department. The irregularity is related to the violation of J&K Financial Code. Apart from that, there has been inordinate delay in the completion of 18 bridges at the cost of Rs. 44 crores. According to the Financial Code, various preliminaries need to be met and certified before finalizing the project for execution.
Any project that is envisaged for execution must go through the mill. It means that in terms of site, structure, feasibility, cost and other matters the project should meet the stipulated conditions. These are nothing new to the authorities in R&B as they are well versed the pre-requisitions of projects like construction of bridges. The CAG audit, however, points out that projects valued at Rs 43.95 crore were held up due to changes in design after approval of works or due to lack of encumbrance free site which indicated lack of due diligence in site survey and designs at the technical approval stage. This is the crux of irregularity in the case under study. Why should there be the change of design, a major component, when the original design was accepted after all the skulduggery done at preliminary stages. Change of design has also meant change in cost estimates which now would be on the higher side. Wherefrom is the additional amount to be met is the question. When funds are not forthcoming, the work on the project is stopped. This is the irregularity which CAG has pointed out. When the matter came to the notice of the Committee on Public Accounts of the State Legislative Assembly, it sprung surprise to its members.
The Committee found that the design and planning were changed after the project had been approved. By the time when the financial crunch appeared a sum of Rs. 26.92 crores which accounts for cost estimates 61 per cent of the total estimated cost had been spent. Obviously, all this has gone waste because more funds are not forthcoming and the original plan and design of projects has been changed without proper sanction from competent authority.
Obviously, in the light of the report of the CAG, the House Panel has asked many questions which the Government must reply. It wants to know the reasons why the balance work of the bridges over last five years has not been completed. It wants to know the reasons why funds were not released for the completion of balance works. Additionally, the Panel wants to know the reasons for non-construction of approach roads in respect of various bridges taken up under Special Bridge Programme. Assuming that flow of funds has been stopped for one or the other reason, what steps has the Government taken for release of balance funds and the steps that had been taken for construction of approach roads for these bridges mentioning the latest status of the bridges? There are more questions raised by the Committee on this behalf.
The question is that the House Committee has taken a firm stand on the issue on the basis of the report of the CAG. That lends full weight to the issue. Hindsight shows that the R&B seem to have changed the original plan under some subjective and not objective impulse which is not permissible because that is in violation of the J&K Financial Code. The result of this whimsical behaviour of the R&B is that for last two years or more the work on the project remains suspended and the money that has been spent so far seems to have become fruitless. The ultimate sufferers are the people for whom the project was undertaken. It has to be reminded that the project was originally chalked out by the Union Government under the Special Bridges Programme of the Ministry of Road Transport. Usually the Central Government has an advisory stating the rules, regulations and parameters of the scheme sponsored by it which the States are advised to keep in mind while implementing the schemes. Even those rules have be ignored and violated by the R&B. A departmental enquiry should be able to reveal how and at what level were the plans changed and financial implications ignored and by whom that ultimately created very embarrassing situation for the Government. In this way the defaulters can be identified and dealt with according to the rules.