Despite increasing tourist inflow, state government yet to formulate ‘Tourism Master Plan’
Morung Express News
Dimapur | April 16
Despite the Nagaland State Government’s often touted emphasis on the tourism potential of Nagaland state, the recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (GAG) of India has drawn attention to the areas that need to be focused on to turn the government’s rhetoric into reality.
This would serve well, as according to departmental figures, the inflow of domestic and foreign tourists have shown a steady increase during the last five years. (See table)
In its performance audit of the Nagaland State Tourism Department, the CAG particularly focused on the need to develop a larger tourism policy for the state and also censured the discrepancies in implementation of projects.
The CAG, in its report for the year ending March 31, 2016, stated that the Nagaland State Government is yet to formulate a Tourism Master Plan or Perspective Plan of prioritizing action and the vision for holistic development of tourism in the state.
It lamented that the state government had not prepared the aforementioned plan which was envisaged in the Nagaland Tourism Policy 2001. In the absence of a tourism plan, it reported that the assets were created in an ad hoc manner. There were also “numerous instances of irregularities in the execution of projects,” the CAG said.
Regarding the execution of projects, the CAG noted that the department took up 62 projects during 2011-16 at a total cost of Rs 299.34 Crores. Further there were nine spill over projects at an approved cost of Rs 41.66 Crores.
Detailed examination of 23 selected projects (including two spilled over projects) and joint physical verification found several discrepancies.
The CAG reported that as of September 2016, out of 62 projects sanctioned during 2011-16, 49 were scheduled for completion by March 2016. However, only 18 projects were actually completed. The CAG meanwhile noticed that all nine spill over projects sanctioned prior to 2011-12 had now been completed.
It also found that 65 components of works in 14 projects of which payment of Rs 8.85 Crore was made were not actually executed. Thus, the department paid an amount of Rs 8.85 Crore without execution of work.
Further, 16 components of work in eight projects at a cost of Rs 1.83 Crores was short executed by compromising the plinth area and the facilities of the approved item, the CAG said. It also stated that 44 components of work in nine projects at a cost of Rs 9.52 Crores were executed in other locations/villages than was originally planned.
It meanwhile also informed that in the “absence of proper safeguard,” 16 infrastructure projects developed by the Tourism Department through funding from the Government of India were “illegally occupied by private individuals without executing deed of agreement with the department.”
The CAG also pointed specifically to two projects—the Mega Destination Dimapur and Tourism Destination at Chesezu—which it stated were abandoned after incurring a total expenditure of Rs 15.95 Crores.
With reference to the Mega Destination Dimapur project, the CAG informed that the Government of India had accorded sanction of Rs 23.70 Crores in January 2012 and released 11.85 Crores as of March 2016. Out of this, Rs 11.85 Crores was incurred as expenditure.
The project was to be completed within 36 months from the date of sanction (December 2014). However as per the Utilisation Certificates submitted by the Department to the government, the CAG informed that physical progress reported was 80 %.
It was also observed during the joint physical verification that construction works had stopped since April 2013. The CAG further informed that artificial thatch procured at a cost of Rs 40 Lakh for use in the project could not be utilized and was dumped in the store room of the tourist lodge Dimapur.
The department, while accepting the facts, however stated in November 2016 that only 50 percent of the sanctioned amount was released and the same was utilized.
The CAG however reasoned that the funds were not released by the GoI as the department did not fulfill the terms and conditions of the sanction of submitting completion/commissioning certificates as per the original plan, drawing etc approved by the central government.
Regarding the Tourist Destination at Chesezu project, the CAG said that proposal for this was approved in September 2011 and the GoI had released Rs 4 Crores. While expenditure of Rs 4.10 Crores had been incurred, the CAG however observed during the joint physical verification that the workd had since been abandoned after completion of 80 percent physical progress as of July 2013.
The department, in its reply, stated that 20 percent of the project cost is yet to be received and hence work has been kept in abeyance.
The CAG also highlighted other examples of irregularities. It stated that the department paid Rs 19.30 Crores for unexecuted items of work. Further, the State Institute of Hotel Management, Dimapur was yet to be functional even after nine years and investment of Rs 17.69 Crores. The convention centre at Dimapyr, constructed at a cost of Rs 4.57 Crores and reported to be complete in March 2-013, wasl also lying idle as all facilities approved were not provided.
The CAG added that the department “did not maintain any records/register and therefore the detailed information of the assets created/owned by the department could not be ascertained.”
In light of its findings, the CAG recommended that the government give emphasis to planning and preparing the short and long term action plans for prioritizing activities for a holistic development and growth of the tourism sector in the state.
It advised that the department should also make effort to review all completed projects lying idle and take necessary steps to utilize the tourist infrastructure for the purpose it was created.
Further the CAG called upon the department to put in place robust financial controls in order to prevent persistent financial irregularities such as diversion of funds, excessive payments, payment without execution of works etc.
Meanwhile it urged that the monitoring mechanism for various infrastructure projects should be strengthened in order to ensure the timely completion and utilization of the completed projects.