*Assembly, Council fail to act on communiqué of deptt
JAMMU, Feb 21: Close on the heels of getting private house of a Member of Legislative Council (MLC) de-hired, the State Accountability Commission (SAC) has directed Director Estates Department to submit the list of Legislators who have been allotted dual accommodation in violation of rules and numerous Government orders issued on the subject from time to time.
The Commission has found it imperative to play its role in checking this ‘illegal practice’ as neither Government nor the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council have shown any seriousness towards this issue, which otherwise is putting enormous financial burden on the State exchequer.
The practice of allotment of dual Government accommodation to the legislators was detected by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in its report tabled in the State Legislature on June 29, 2016. It was pointed out in the report that Estates Department had made avoidable extra expenditure of nearly Rs 33 crore due to non-adherence to norms and 55 legislators had been allotted Government accommodation despite occupying flats in the MLAs’ Hostel.
“Non-adherence to prescribed allotment norms or policy for accommodation in private hired hotels resulted in avoidable extra-expenditure to the tune of Rs 19.02 crore during the period 2010-11 to 2014-15. Also, non-eviction of unauthorized occupants resulted in avoidable expenditure of Rs 13.95 crore for hiring of private hotels and houses”, the CAG had stated.
It was specifically mentioned that 55 legislators, including Ministers who have been allotted Government accommodation by the Estates Department at Jammu and Srinagar cities, were occupying accommodation at MLAs Hostels at Jammu and Srinagar provided by the Legislative Assembly Secretariat in sheer violation of a Government order which prohibits dual allotment of accommodation to members of Legislature either at Srinagar or at Jammu or at both places.
However, neither there was any action from the Government nor from the State Legislature on the findings of the supreme audit institution of India and in the absence of any explicit directions from the Government the Estates Department was feeling ‘helpless’, reliable sources in the department told EXCELSIOR.
In the meanwhile, the State Accountability Commission (SAC) took suo-moto cognizance of the CAG report whereby legislators were found violators of the rules instead of upholding the same. “Accordingly, a notice was issued to the Director Estates Department seeking his reply vis-à-vis steps taken to act on the findings of the CAG”, insiders in Estates Department said.
When the case again came up for hearing before the Full Commission comprising Justice B A Khan (Chairperson) and Justice J P Singh and Justice B A Kirmani (Members) few days back, Director Estates, who was appearing in person, submitted that a list of legislators having dual accommodation has been furnished to Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council Secretariat.
The Director, however, expressed inability to proceed on the findings of the CAG for want of necessary instructions either from the Legislature or from the Government, sources said while disclosing that Accountability Commission has now directed the Director to submit the list of legislators which has already been shared with the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council Secretariats, sources said.
Now it is to be seen what action the Accountability Commission takes on the receipt of list from the Director Estates on next date of hearing as dual accommodation is putting enormous burden on the State exchequer and can be dubbed as ‘plunder’ of tax payers money.
“It is improper on the part of the legislators occupying dual accommodation as instead of becoming role model for the common masses as far as adherence to the rules and regulations is concerned they are themselves flouting the same only for their convenience”, sources regretted, adding “the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Chairman of the Legislative Council should also intervene and ensure that members of both the Houses of State Legislature keep only one accommodation and voluntarily leave the another so as to avoid unnecessary burden on exchequer”.
It is pertinent to mention here that Comptroller and Auditor General of India had pointed out that some legislators had been provided accommodation by the Custodian Department apart from accommodation by the Estates Department and Legislative Assembly Secretariat.