When Azaadi seekers looted state exchequer and were not penalised

Those seeking Azaadi and shouting Pro-Pakistan slogans looted state exchequer on the pretext of relief and rehabilitation of victims of massive Kashmir floods of the year 2014. Funds worth crores were siphoned-off. The Victims, the residents of Kashmir valley, were victimised by their own politicians, ministers and officers. Even the Boatmen were not spared. District Administration, Srinagar, had hired 504 boats for evacuation of affected people from flood affected areas at a cost of Rs. 1.77 crore during September 3 to October 14, 2014. While it may be difficult to ensure strict compliance with all procedural formalities in an emergency situation, it is nevertheless necessary that minimum controls are exercised to ensure reaching of assistance to affected persons as well as prevent misuse of funds meant for relief and rehabilitation.
Disaster Management Act stipulates requirement of authorization by the authority for procurements and certificate of utilization by the authorized controlling office.
Audit noticed that no record was maintained of decisions taken for hiring of boats, nomination of nodal officers and constitution of committee of officials to monitor the rescue operations. Further, details of rescue operations viz. area/location where the boats were deployed, number of flood-affected people rescued, details of areas/camps where these rescued people were sent, details of arrangement of food and lodging in these areas/ camps were not on record. Audit also noted that Rs. 1.77 crore was paid to the President of the All Jammu and Kashmir Shikara Owners’ Association. As per the sanctions, payments were to be made in the range of Rs. 38,000 to Rs. 10,000. Scrutiny of the bank statements of payments made to the boatmen by DC Srinagar revealed less payment of Rs. 30.16 lakh. In addition, 58 boatmen to whom hire charges of Rs. 20.02 lakh were sanctioned by the DC Srinagar were not reflected in the bank statement.
Audit check of bank statements of the Shikara Owner’s Association showed that Rs. 41.68 lakh was paid to persons who were not reflected in the lists of boatmen prepared by DC Srinagar. It was also noticed that Rs. 9.50 lakh was drawn by President of Association on self cheques for disbursement to boatmen. However, no records were available to verify whether such payments were made. Thus, assessment of damages was completed only in three test-checked districts while in other three districts difference between initial and final assessment was in the range of 11 to 137 per cent. Need assessment was not conducted in any of the districts which adversely impacted the provision of immediate assistance to affected people. Rescue, evacuation and relief were managed in an ad hoc manner in absence of response and evacuation plan. Further, the procedure adopted by the DC Srinagar for making payments to boatmen provided no assurance that the funds disbursed actually reached the individual boatmen. State government authorized Jammu and Kashmir Industries Limited (JKI) for procurement of tents for providing temporary shelters to families whose houses were fully damaged. JKI procured 20,345 tents at a cost of Rs. 13.26 crore. Audit observed that 4,467 tents valuing Rs. 2.84 crore were lying unutilized and 536 tents valuing Rs. 34.04 lakh had gone missing during transit from Srinagar to Anantnag and Budgam. Hence, nearly 25 per cent of the tents procured valued at Rs. 3.18 crore could not be used for the intended purpose. State government also authorized JKI to procure blankets for flood victims. JKI procured 50,000 blankets of approved specification at a rate of Rs. 290 per blanket from two firms. Of these, 36,000 blankets were issued to the Additional DC Srinagar during September 2014 and 14,000 blankets were issued to five other districts during October 2014. Audit noticed that an additional 19,105 blankets valuing Rs. 0.50 crore were also procured by DCs Jammu, Udhampur, Srinagar, Anantnag, Senior Superintendent of Police Kathua as well as Divisional Commissioner Jammu. Out of this, 5,540 blankets (29 per cent) were procured at rates between Rs. 350 and Rs. 700 per blanket. The additional cost from SDRF of 5,540 blankets procured at higher rates worked out to Rs.12.29 lakh. The details of vehicles utilized by the Divisions for disposal of garbage/mulba, including the details of agencies from whom they were hired, were not on record. While the PWD claimed that the sanitation work done by them supplemented the work done by the Municipal Corporation, the Financial Advisor and Chief Accounts Officer SMC stated that the entire city had been cleared and no area under SMC was left out or ignored during cleanliness drive. Hence the expenditure of Rs. 1.30 crore included in works bills for restoration of roads could not be verified by audit.

Recommended For You

About the Author: editor