CAG Pulls Up I&FC Dept Over Jhelum Dredging, Misappropriation Of Funds

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Srinagar- The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has pulled up the Jammu and Kashmir’s irrigation & flood control department for lapses in achieving required targets for dredging of Jhelum river that had hamstrung the disaster management response post 2014 floods.

The audit by the CAG noted that the there was a shortfall of targets by I&FC department in terms of dredging that was required under the Prime Minister's Development Package for Crisis Management project's to increase the carrying capacity of flood waters of the Jhelum river and through the Flood Spill Channel (FSC).

The audit has strictly noted that the contractor dredged out only 0.84 lakh cum bed material (12 per cent) of total quantity allotted up to January 2017 and thereby attracted the forfeiture of the performance guarantee as per the terms and conditions of the contract.

“The SLCC directed the CE, I&FC Department, Kashmir to put on notice the contractor firm to honor the contractual obligations and to also extend the period of completion of contract up to March 2018 on the same terms and conditions, as in the original contract. However, even in the extended period dredging of only 5.015 lakh cum of bed material, which is 72 percent of allotted quantity was achieved. The performance bank guarantee, however, was not invoked by the Department.” The audit noted

As per the audit, the overall achievement of dredging of river bed material was 6.86 lakh cum (98 per cent) against a target of 7 lakh cum but the dredging of Jhelum river was not carried out as per the requirements fixed at six sites.

“In fact, 0.58 lakh cum extra bed material was dredged out at three sites on the other hand, no dredging at all was carried out at one site and at two sites less dredging was done.” reads the audit report. “Consequently, a total of 0.72 lakh cum (ten percent of estimated removal through dredging) of river bed material was not dredged at three sites. Also the SLCC observed that if the allotted stretches are not dredged, these stretches may be exposed to the progressive silt deposition overtime leading to high probability of inundation of low lying surrounding areas along with these stretches during the incidence of floods.”

The audit has also noted that there were some additional items of work, especially for laying of Geo-synthetic bags that have resulted in extra cost being incurred by the executing Divisions, without approval of the competent authority.

“The fact remains that excess over the allotted cost was done beyond the financial powers of the respective officers and as a result, the possibility of splitting of the estimates cannot be ruled out and thereby the necessary scrutiny at appropriate levels did not take place.” reads the audit.

The audit has noted that the I&FC department had sanctioned the approval of some works without getting a sanction of approval from the Administration which had led to the execution of work being executed without following the necessary rules under Financial Code Volume I.

The CAG report had also revealed that there were several cases of misappropriation of the funds that were provided by the Government of India for dredging of Jhelum river.

As per CAG, six lakh was drawn by the Executive Engineer, Irrigation and Flood Control Division, Sumbal in March 2017 without any documentary evidences/voucher passed. “On verification from the office of the Accountant General (A&E), J&K, Srinagar, it was noticed (June 2019) that a voucher worth ` 8,600 for maintenance of photocopier in place of drawn amount of ` six lakh was submitted alongwith the monthly account. The misappropriation of funds was facilitated due to lack of proper internal control and monitoring mechanism and evident negligence of the Drawing and Disbursing Officer to check correctness of bills or to get these verified in accordance with standing Financial Rules.” reads the audit.

The Audit has also noticed (June 2019) that in Flood Control Division, Anantnag 0.59 lakh was drawn in favor of M/s Sky Tech, Srinagar for drafting of encroachment details twice (in January 2019 and in March 2019). “After being pointed out in audit, the Executive Engineer admitted (July 2019) irregularity and recovered (November 2019) excess amount of ` 0.59 lakh from the Firm.” reads the report.

It is pertinent to mention here that the audit has also noted that the erstwhile state's executing divisions had no mechanism for carrying out tests of materials and even geo-synthetic bags which were utilized first time by the department were not tested at any stage.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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