Vital aspect ignored by Govt while issuing instructions
Issue of non-reimbursement of Rs 2.17 cr yet to be solved
JAMMU, Apr 25: The much-needed physical and financial audit of thousands of community and individual bunkers in border areas of Jammu and Kashmir has remained confined to the official order as Government has failed to place necessary manpower at the disposal of the Auditor-cum-Investigating Officer.
In order to mitigate the hardships being faced by the people living in the vicinity of International Border (IB) and Line of Control (LoC) due to shelling and firing by the Pakistani rangers, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in the year 2017 accorded sanction to the construction of 13029 individual and 1431 community bunkers in Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Rajouri and Poonch districts at a cost of Rs 415.75 crore under Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme.
Though after initial hiccups the construction of bunkers in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts picked up momentum yet the same was not up to the expectations of the Government. Moreover, no significant progress has so far been made in Rajouri and Poonch districts because of increased cost of construction and lack of response to the repeated tenders floated by the Roads and Buildings Department.
In Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts, some bunkers either developed cracks within short span of their construction or got filled with underground water thereby rendering them not fit for use by the border dwellers.
Keeping all these aspects in mind, the Government decided to get the audit of construction of community and individual bunkers conducted and finally Principal Secretary to Government, Finance Department vide Government Order No.231-F dated March 22, 2019 appointed Tahir Hussain, Director Finance in the Home Department as Audit-cum-Investigating Officer for conducting physical and financial audit of bunkers.
It was specifically mentioned in the order that officer shall conduct an in-depth investigation and furnish a detailed report to the Finance Department enumerating the reasons behind the slow pace of construction of bunkers in the border areas even when the Ministry of Home Affairs has already sanctioned Rs 415.75 crore.
A time-frame of 20 days was fixed for the officer to furnish the report but astonishingly it was not mentioned in the order as to who will assist him in this detailed exercise, sources in the Finance Department told EXCELSIOR, adding “due to non-placement of team of officers at his disposal the Audit-cum-Investigating Officer could not initiate even one step towards implementing the order of the Government till date”.
“The physical and financial audit of large number of bunkers is a daunting task and cannot be looked after single-handedly by any officer of the State administration”, sources said, adding “it is a matter of concern that this aspect was not kept in mind by the Finance Department at the time of issuance of the order for audit”.
They further said, “even Home Department can be held responsible for delay in start of audit as being the Nodal Agency for utilization of funds under Security Related Expenditure it should have spared some officers from the department for rendering assistance to Audit-cum-Investigating Officer”, adding “unless the physical and financial audit is completed in a time bound manner the Government would not be in a position to ascertain the reasons behind slow pace of work and in such situation border dwellers would be the sufferers”.
Not only physical and financial audit of construction of bunkers, the Audit-cum-Investigating Officer was also supposed to look into the causes of non-reimbursement of Rs 21.6 crore lodged during the financial year 2016-17 for “pilot project for construction of 60 bunkers in Jammu”, which has been rendered inadmissible by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs’ audit team.
“Due to delay in start of exercise by the Audit-cum-Investigating Officer this issue has also remained unresolved”, sources said and wondered how two key departments-Finance and Home can expect one man to dig out the facts about thousands of bunkers.
They further said, “if the Government really wants the border dwellers to obtain the benefit of Ministry of Home Affair’s Security Related Expenditure Scheme it should place sufficient number of officials at the disposal of Audit-cum-Investigating Officer in order to facilitate him in start of audit”.