Audits of CAMPA accounts, works going on at snail’s pace in J&K

Internal monitoring of works executed in last 3 yrs yet to be completed
Even annual reports of 2019-20, 2020-21 still pending

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Oct 11: Notwithstanding the fact that critical analysis plays vital role in ascertaining compliance to financial and other provisions, the mandatory audits of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) accounts and works are going on at a snail’s pace in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory because of non-serious approach on the part of those who are at the helm of affairs in the Forest Department.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that the CAMPA has been created for the management of compensatory afforestation fund where all the monies received from the user-agencies towards compensatory afforestation are deposited and utilized to compensate for the loss of tangible as well as intangible benefits from the forest lands diverted for non-forest use.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has issued detailed guidelines for mandatory audits of CAMPA accounts and works to ascertain whether the diversion of forest land for non-forest use was permitted as per extant laws and all conditions in this regard were complied with; whether measures taken for conservation, afforestation and preservation of forest lands consequent to diversion of portions of these lands for non-forest use; whether the collection, utilization, monitoring, accounting and the arrangement for safeguarding of compensatory afforestation fund was in compliance with applicable legislation, rules and Supreme Court judgments and whether proper financial procedures has been followed in investing funds.
A Comptroller and Auditor General of India empanelled firm was hired in January 2020 for financial audit of CAMPA accounts at headquarters as well as accounts of all implementing agencies for the period 2010-11 to 2019-20 (except for the period 2014-15 which has already been audited by another firm) but the financial audit is still going on and the delay is being attributed to the disruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic, sources said.
“The agency was given time till March 2021 to complete the work but the same was extended till July 31, 2021. However, the report is still awaited and now it is stated in the official meetings that once the audit report is received, the same will be submitted to the Accountant General for further necessary action”, sources said.
About the third party audit of CAMPA works, sources said, “the CAMPA Secretariat has assigned the independent third party monitoring for the period 2012-13 to 2018-19 to a consultancy firm in respect of Jammu region and the draft report has been submitted but the same is yet to be finalized at the highest level”, adding “in respect of Kashmir region, field work is still going on and no time-frame has been fixed for the completion of the same”.
As far as internal monitoring is concerned, sources informed that as per the CAMPA guidelines, norms were fixed for internal verification and inspection of works at the field level in the year 2019 whereby Forester is required to conducted 100% verification and inspection of works; Range Officer at least 80%, Divisional Forest Officer at least 50%, Conservator of Forests at least 20% and Chief Conservator of Forests 10%.
“Vide CAMPA Order No.03 dated April 30, 2021, internal monitoring of CAMPA works executed during 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21 by specifically constituted teams comprising officers from Forest and allied departments was ordered but the same is still going on and no time-frame has been fixed for its completion”, sources said.
In accordance with Rule 38 of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Rules, 2018, J&K CAMPA is required to prepare the annual report giving brief description of all activities and summary of works undertaken in accordance with the approved Annual Plan of Operations from the State Fund.
“However, the CAMPA Secretariat is still in the process of preparing annual reports for the financial years 2019-20 and 2020-21, sources said, adding “all this clearly indicates that the mandatory audits and annual reports preparation exercise are going on at a snail’s pace in utter disregard to the explicit guidelines”.