Timelines over, LAHDC Leh yet to ensure full compliance of directives issued by MHA

Submission of all pending accounts for audit

*Kargil Hill Council furnishes details to Accountant General

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, May 22: Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh has failed to meet the timelines fixed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs for submission of all pending accounts for audit. However, the Hill Council of Kargil has completed the task and clear picture about the utilization of funds and adherence to financial rules by both the Councils will emerge after the detailed analysis by the Accountant General Jammu and Kashmir.
The LAHDC Leh came into existence in the year 1995-96 while as the Hill Council of Kargil was constituted in the year 2003-04. Both the autonomous councils were supposed to submit accounts to the Accountant General, J&K for audit on the closure of every financial year. However, there was no compliance although Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India reprimanded the Hill Councils in its numerous reports.
“There was non-compliance despite the fact that substantial sums are being released to the Councils and unspent balances at the end of the year remain credited in a Non-lapsable Fund in the Public Account”, official sources told EXCELSIOR, adding “the accounts of both the Councils remained in arrears since inception despite the fact that non-submission/delay in submission of accounts by these bodies receiving substantial funding from the budget is a serious financial irregularity persisting for years”.
Keeping in view the constant reluctance of both the Hill Councils in submission of accounts for audit, Additional Secretary/Finance Advisor, Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the month of November last year convened a meeting to review the preparation of the accounts of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils (LAHDCs) of both Leh and Kargil pending for the last 25 years in the presence of Advisor Ladakh, Umang Narula at the Union Territory Secretariat.
In the meeting, the Additional Secretary observed, “delay/arrears in finalization of accounts carries the risk of financial irregularities going undetected and entails possibility of fraud and mis-appropriation, along with absence of a feedback on their activities and financial performance”.
As the Chief Controllers of Finance (CCF) of LAHDCs of Leh and Kargil presented a detailed report on the progress of their work in preparing the pending accounts and even informed about the various shortcomings and issues faced in this process, the Union Additional Secretary directed that accounts should be sent to the office of the Jammu and Kashmir Accountant General on the concurred deadlines starting from November 2021.
However, only the LAHDC Kargil has met the deadlines and submitted all the pending accounts to the Accountant General J&K for audit. “We have ensured compliance of the directives of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Moreover, a mechanism has been evolved for weekly monitoring of the preparation of accounts”, said Santosh Sukhadeve, Deputy Commissioner Kargil and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LAHDC Kargil when contacted.
On the other side, the LAHDC Leh has yet not ensured full compliance of the directives of the Ministry of Home Affairs and this can be gauged from the fact that accounts of only six financial years have been submitted till now.
“We are in the process of preparing the accounts of remaining financial years and hopefully the same will be submitted to the Accountant General J&K shortly”, said Shrikant Balasaheb Suse, Deputy Commissioner Leh and Chief Executive Officer of LAHDC Leh when contacted.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Deputy Commissioners/Chief Executive Officers of the Hill Councils are supposed to monitor the booking of expenditure under different works on a regular basis to ensure that allotted budgets are timely expended.
“Now, exact picture about utilization of funds and compliance to the Financial Rules by both the Hill Councils ever since their inception will come to the fore only after the detailed audit of the accounts by the Accountant General”, sources said, adding “the successive Chief Executive Councilors (CECs) of the Hill Councils were responsible for accounts remaining in arrears as they never showed any interest in getting the same audited”.
“Moreover, it is only after the grant of Union Territory status to Ladakh that compliance of the General Financial Rules (GFR) is being ensured in the Hill Councils by the administration”, sources further said.