Parliamentary panel notes inefficient fiscal management of centrally-funded irrigation projects

NEW DELHI: The Public Accounts of Parliament (PAC) have suggested the Jal Shakti Water resources) ministry to facilitate formation of ‘ Water users associations’ in each state and Union Territory and sought action against all those public servants responsible for wastage of public money in certain projects, including Valley project of Meghalaya.

The move to have Water users associations in all states/UTs will not only stop wastage but also ensure availability of Water to larger number of farmers for longer period through participatory irrigation management.

The Committee, which adopted its report on Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) in March, felt that the Water users in local areas are well acquainted with local issues and the solutions emanating from their feedback should be “seriously considered for inclusion under various schemes” of the government.

The AIBP is a central scheme to accelerate the implementation of large irrigation projects that are beyond the resource capacity of the states.

The PAC, headed by the MP of Congress in Lok Sabha However, Adhir Ranjan Choudhary wanted the ministry to thoroughly review the guidelines for listing a project under the AIBP, with the confidence of all states and other stakeholders.

The Committee, in its report published on Friday, also recommended that the ministry establish a separate cell to examine all cases of improper benefits to contractors, starting with overpayments made, and to strive to recover unsuccessfully spent public money. It also noted certain cases in Karnataka and on the subject of irregular expenses and irregular payments, respectively.

The Committee recommends that the ministry continue these cases vigorously and to their logical end, the report said.

In the Rongai Valley project, the PAC noted that the ministry was unable to advance any plausible reason for the project's inclusion at a sanctioned cost of Rs 17.30 crore under the AIBP without preparing a detailed project report (DPR).

Noting the inefficient fiscal management of AIBP, the Committee also noted in its report that the DPRs of 14 large and medium-sized irrigation projects, with an overall sanctioned cost of around Rs 10.55 billion, have not been made available to the audit . The PAC considered that many projects could not see the light of day due to the denial of access to the DPR to the audit.