A parliamentary standing committee has highlighted "glaring irregularities" including fictitious and fraudulent expenditure in projects related to Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme'.
The Centre's AIBP aims to provide financial assistance to state governments to help speed up implementation of on-going irrigation projects.
The committee has also advised the Jal Shakti ministry to make more effective use of satellite imageries to monitor the irrigation potential.
This report of the Public Accounts Committee on the action taken by the government on the observations and recommendations of the panel on AIBP further recommended that all possible support should be extended to strengthen participatory irrigation management through Water Users Associations.
"The Committee feels that more effective use of satellite imageries from National Remote Sensing Centre with effective reconciliation from field reports will go a long way in effectively monitoring the Irrigation Potential and therefore, desire that the Ministry should take all possible steps to effectively reduce the variations between satellite imageries and field verifications to the extent possible, by working with the remote sensing authorities," the report said.
The Committee also highlighted the "glaring irregularities" observed by audit with regard to fictitious and fraudulent expenditure by the government that has been left "largely un-responded" to by the government in their reply.
"The Committee also note the failure of the government to obtain the response from the state government of Uttar Pradesh on the suspected irregular expenditure of Rs 1.47 crores and the failure to recover a suspected irregular payment of Rs 2.63 crore in case of Karnataka government. The Committee recommended the Ministry to pursue such cases vigorously and to its logical end," it said.
The Committee noted that the ministry have forwarded the replies of the state governments concerned in respect to suspected irregular expenditure without verifying facts on the basis of which audit has submitted its findings.
The Committee has recommended that as major portion of funding is being done by the Ministry under AIBP, it should not have washed its "hands off" from the implementation part altogether and allowed undue benefits to the contractors in various cases of AIBP projects.
The Committee recommended that increasing participatory model of Water use will effectively tackle the issue of irrigation ills, provided the scheme of AIBP is strongly coordinated with users and their needs.
The Committee said water users in local areas are well acquainted with local issues and the solutions emanating from their feedback should be seriously considered for inclusion.
"...desire that the Ministry should take all possible steps to effectively reduce the variations between satellite imageries and field verifications to the extent possible, by working with the remote sensing authorities," the report said.
The Committee in their original report observed that performance of AIBP is "not up to the desired level" due to inordinate delay in preparation of Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) and wastage of public money by sanctioning amounts for projects which have no DPRs.
"In view of this, the Committee recommended that all shortfalls and deficiencies on this count may be resolved immediately. The Committee also noted that Ministry had no reasonable explanation for sanctioning 16.30 crore for 'Rongai Valley Project' without preparing a DPR. The Committee had recommended taking action against those directly or indirectly responsible for wastage of money," it said.
The Committee said it was distressed to note that the Jal Shakti Ministry has also not given any details of steps it has taken to avoid delay in preparation of DPRs and thereby save on expenditure going waste.
"The plea taken by the Ministry is that all projects that are included under AIBP have bankable DPRs, as the fund under this scheme is extended to projects which are under implementation for a long period. Contrary to this, the Committee found, there was no DPR for Rongai Valley projects and audit was not given DPRs in respect of 14 major/medium irrigation projects.
"Assumably these were not available. The Committee find the plea of the Ministry is not supported by facts and no action is taken for these derelictions/omissions causing wastage of public money. The Committee therefore, reiterate their earlier recommendation for fixing responsibility in the matter," it said.
The Committee expressed concern with the observation of Audit that the Ministry needs to ensure that critical projects records are duly preserved.
"Ignoring wasteful expenditure of Rs 17.90 crore and also not taking action in line with the recommendation of the Committee is a major disappointment for the Committee and is indicative of the Ministry not looking into the matter with due seriousness and being hesitant to take any action against the errant.
"The Committee, therefore, strongly reiterate their recommendation for identifying and taking stringent action on the persons involved in sanctioning the amount without a DPR for the Rongai Valley Project," it said.
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