CEC seeks financial autonomy to LAHDCs, routing of PFMS funds through Council Heads

Excelsior Correspondent

KARGIL, May 28: Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor, LAHDC, Kargil Feroz Ahmad Khan has highlighted the need to grant financial autonomy to the LAHDCs and demanded that the funds under PFMS be routed through the Council Heads.
In a letter addressed to the Lieutenant Governor Ladakh Radha Krishna Mathur, the CEC has stated that since Ladakh is topographically isolated from the rest of the country as well as the regions of the erstwhile J&K State and remains cut off from the rest of the country for almost half of the year, it needs political, socio-economic, cultural and financial independence and keeping in view the demographic location of the region, the Legislature of the erstwhile J&K State had enacted the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act on 8th October, 1997.
He said that the Act provided a provision for the constitution of a “Council Fund Major Head 8448” under Section-43. The Councils were autonomous and the funds which remained unutilized at the end of the financial year were not lapsed but were kept in Council Fund and subsequently revalidated in the coming financial year. The Hill Development Councils were provided with powers to grant Administrative Approval to the individual works to the extent of Rs. 50 lakh. This limit was increased to Rs. 5 crores in the year 2002, and was further enhanced to Rs. 20 crores in the year 2017.
The CEC has further said that in the year 2018, the Council Act was further amended and the Councils were made more independent and powerful. All the funds (Revenue/Capex/CSS/ SDRF/BADP etc.) were allocated to the Councils by the Government as per Section 40 of the amended Act and all the employees within the district (except Judiciary and Police) were deemed to be transferred to the Council, and their reporting authority was the Chief Executive Officer (Deputy Commissioner/CEO, LAHDC).
Khan said that the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019 says that the Ladakh UT will be without legislature. While replying to the opposition on this point, Union Home Minister had made it clear in the Parliament that the Hill Development Councils would be made more powerful and independent.
But due to the implementation of the Public Financial Management System (PFMS), the Council Fund was abolished. The present system of the online payment is more transparent and accurate, but the system implemented in Ladakh is the system which is also in place in other UTs.
The CEC said that this system needs some modification and has demanded that the funds allocated to the UT of Ladakh be kept in the Council Fund and the Council Fund should be incorporated in the PFMS. He further said that the Hill Development Councils will be financially more powerful if the Council Fund is revived.
He further said that in view of the recent delegation of financial powers to the subordinate authorities of Lieutenant Governor of Union Territory of Ladakh by the Ministry of Home Affairs and given the authority to deal with matters of finance as stated in the LAHDC Act and that the same Act being retained to be in force under the J&K Reorganization Act 2019, LAHDC Kargil would like to make it a point that it would keep exercising the powers conferred upon it.
Khan has demanded that the funds of PFMS be routed through the Council Heads so that the funds are ensured to be of “non-lapsable” nature as per past practice thereby implementing the commitment made by the Home Minister in the Parliament.