by N.J. Nair
A large number of civic bodies in the State are understood to have parked substantial sums of the Plan funds as deposits in various institutions for jacking up the fund absorption rate at the fag end of the previous financial year.
Official sources toldThe Hinduhere that the average Plan expenditure rate of Block panchayats stood at 51 per cent and grama panchayats, and district panchayats at 41 per cent and 45 per cent respectively on February 29.
The absorption rate of the urban civic bodies too was almost at the same range during the period. Almost all the civic chiefs and members had complained about the slackness of the Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs) in clearing the Plan projects in time and cited delayed clearance as the prime reason for poor fund utilisation.
Many of them sought an additional three months to spend the remaining 60 per cent of the total allocation.
But within a month, almost all of them claimed to have recorded about 40 per cent increase in the fund absorption rate and pegged the utilisation levels at 90 per cent.
The delay in restructuring the regional TAGs had been cited as a reason for the delay in clearing projects.
Elected members had complained that the TAGs were functioning in an erratic manner and were not meeting in a time-bound manner.
There was an argument that such shortcomings were being pointed to do away with the TAGs and revive the system of engineers and bureaucrats clearing projects. Formation of TAGs comprising officials and experts (who offered their services voluntarily) had reportedly made the approval system transparent.
Transferring the entire process to the bureaucrats citing functional lapses of TAGs would reverse the system that was put in place with the launch of the People's Plan Campaign, sources said.
Civic bodies should be asked to prepare, submit, and execute Plan projects in a time-bound manner, sources said.
The TAGs should be asked to clear projects swiftly, instead of scrapping a system which had been effective in checking many corrupt practices, they added.