In Himachal, audit objections pending settlement since 1971

Shimla: Audit objections pointed out in 1970-71 – the year Himachal Pradesh was granted statehood , four decades on still await settlement even though the matter of outstanding inspection reports (IR) was raised as recently as August 2009, with the chief secretary by the comptroller and auditor general (CAG).

Rita Mitra, principal accountant general let the media know today that in forest department audit observations since 1970-71, in transport department since 1972-73 and in excise and taxation since 1973-74 were awaiting settlement.

In all an arrear of 131 such IRs for a period from 1971 to 2008 had piled up and as far as compliance of earlier audit reports, out of an Rs 124.87 crore amount that was accepted by the government in audits pointed out during 2003-08 and needed to be recovered, only Rs 35.48 crore had been recovered till March 2009, said Mitra.

Gains made till 2007-08 in achieving deficit targets tumbled in 2008-09 and all key fiscal parameters of state finances were under deficit, she said. The revenue deficit was Rs 130 crore, fiscal deficit was 2278 crore and primary deficit was 384 crore. Fall in non-tax revenue and central grant in aid impacted revenues which increased by barely 1.8 % whereas revenue expenditure increased by 13.8%, said the auditor.

The ratio of development expenditure to aggregate expenditure in HP was lower than the national average and government investments in public sector undertakings in five years fetched 1.1 % returns whereas the money borrowed to meet expenditure needs had incurred an average interest of 9.5 percent, she said.

CAG was contemplating making changes in bringing out its reports. Instead of bringing out all reports towards the end of the financial year, bringing out separate reports on specific topics that can be tabled in monsoon or winter session was being considered,” she said.

For one the auditor was undertaking a comprehensive audit about the NREGA program since its inception in the state. A comprehensive audit about the cost-benefit ratio of the excise tax exemption package for industries to Himachal for 2003-10 could also be considered, she added.

Breaking from tradition, the auditor had started district wise audit and a report for Shimla district for financial year ended in March, 2008 had been released with other reports on 13th April, said Mitra.

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  1. Government Response

    A news item has appeared in a section of press regarding pending audit paras of CAG in the State.

    A spokesman of the State Government has clarified the position in this regard. The State Government shares the concerns of CAG regarding pending audit paras and is earnestly trying to address this issue. The State Government has constituted a high level Apex Committee under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary. This Committee is meeting regularly and seven meetings of this Committee have been held since August 2009 when the CAG had raised the issue last with the Chief Secretary. As of now, the suo-moto replies to all paras have been sent to the Public Accounts Committee of Vidhan Sabha Replies to 47 out of 72 ATRs and 88 out of 121 FATRs have also been sent to Public Accounts Committee of Vidhan Sabha. It may be appreciated that the settling of old outstanding paras is a continuous process.

    The news report has also commented on the financial parameters of the State for the year 2008-09. It is clarified that while the State Government’s actual own tax and non tax revenue for the year was more than the budget estimates, the overall revenue receipts were adversely affected due to non receipt of 2nd tranche of world bank assistance (which was subsequently received in 2009-10) and relatively less receipt of share in central taxes vis-a-vis the budgeted figures. The release of interim relief installments to the State Government employees also resulted in additional expenditure during the year. The spokesman further clarified that the State Government was committed to manage its finances in a prudent manner.

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