SrinagarThe main opposition party in National Conference (NC), on Wednesday urged the government of India to take a “hard look” at the reason behind the Mehbooba Mufti-led state government’s decision to put the Pay and Accounts Office (PAO) system in abeyance till March 31.
In a tweet, NC working president Omar Abdullah asked the Prime Minister’s Office and Union finance ministry to look into the sudden and arbitrary reversal of the PAO system that was aimed at ensuring transparency in the utilisation of government funds.
“@PMOIndia & @FinMinIndia need to take a long, hard look at the reasons behind the sudden & arbitrary reversal of the PAO system that had been introduced in JK (sic),” Omar said in his tweet.
In another tweet, he said, “For 3 years the JK legislature was told that this reform would be a major step towards transparent use of funds. A measure approved by legislative vote has been overturned by a mere government order.”
Haseeb Drabu, who was sacked as the finance minister of Jammu and Kashmir, had been pushing for the implementation of the PAO system and had not wilted under pressure from various quarters, including the ruling PDP, to put it on hold, sources in the state government said.
Immediately after Drabu was sacked and Syed Mohammed Altaf Bukhari was given the additional charge of the finance ministry, the first order to roll out put the implementation of the PAO system in abeyance till March 31.
Drabu had proposed a reform in the government’s payment system by replacing the present treasury system with a functionally aligned PAO system, under which any government scheme needed to have three mandatory sanctions — administrative, technical and financial.
Under the proposal, the contractors had to upload the bills and the amount would have been transferred to their bank accounts online.
Drabu had proposed that for all receipts and disbursements of the government, the PAO would be departmentally aligned. The officials would deal with those heads of accounts, which are related to the function of their departments concerned.
Instead of receiving the receipts and disbursing the payments of numerous departments in the treasury system, the PAO would deal with just one department.
This will ensure a better understanding of the department, resulting in better forecasting, budgeting, accounting and reporting,” Drabu had said in his budget speech.
Smokescreen Unravelled: NC
National Conference on Wednesday said the sudden rollback of the Pay and Accounts Office (PAO) System by the Jammu and Kashmir Government has exposed ruling PDPs moral smokescreen over the sacking of former Finance Minister Dr. Haseeb Drabu.
In a statement issued, the party strongly opposes the remarks of the Former Finance Minister viz-a-viz the Kashmir Issue, it was now evident beyond an iota of doubt that the reasons for his removal were different and the rollback of the PAO reform provides a major clue.
We strongly opposed Dr. Drabus unacceptable and factually incorrect remarks and we continue to oppose them. We believe Dr. Drabu inadvertently spilled the beans and publicly exposed the actual mindset of the PDP a party which sacrificed the last remnants of its ideological pretence to ally with the BJP. However, the sudden and arbitrary rollback of the Pay and Accounts Office (PAO) Reform brought in by the J&K Government just last month through the Assembly raises a huge red flag. It seems the PAO system was a reason for Dr. Drabus removal and the Chief Minister needs to be held to account how can a reform that your Government pushed through the Legislature just a month or so ago suddenly become untouchable and unacceptable? the NC said.
It said there were apprehensions that the reforms were being rolled back to benefit some particular individuals and players, indicating a collusion with the State Government and this was a serious charge that needed to be probed independently. This is a smoking gun without a doubt and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti needs to answer. PDP has been in power for almost three years now and they are still in their experimentation mode. The inherent instability and state of chaos perpetuated by the PDP-BJP Government has cost the State enormously in terms of missed opportunities of growth and development, the NC added.
It is also a curious case in how the new Finance Minister didnt wait even a day before rolling back the PAO system on taking charge. Something seems to be going on behind the scenes and needs to be investigated. For nearly two years the PDP-BJP Government persecuted the contractors on account of these changes and ended up accumulating an unpaid bill of nearly 700 crores. If the PAO System was bad to start with, why were these bills allowed to accumulate? What was the reason to bring in the PAO System and what is the reason to roll it back? These are critical questions the Chief Minister needs to answer, the NC added.
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