Fund misuse behind flowery façade

Morung Express News
Dimapur | May  7

A venture that not only put Nagaland on the global flora market and provided farmers and growers across the state with maximum returns, the department of Horticulture  perhaps deserves a pat for its successful money-making enterprise. The department boasts of huge annual turnovers and employment generation in the state. However, behind this facade is the year end report of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) which shows lack of transparency, and misappropriation of centrally-sponsored scheme funds. According to the CAG report, the Government of India on October 2003 approved the scheme of Integrated Development of Horticulture in North Eastern states. From November 2006 to December 2007, a sum of 35.41 crore was released to the horticulture department for implementation of various components of mini-mission-II of the Technology Mission during 2006-07 to 2007-08.

On scrutiny of the records of the Directorate of Horticulture, the CAG report said, Kohima revealed that the closing cash balance as on March 31, 2008, was shown as Rs. 24.83 crore in the cash book as against the bank balance of Rs. 3.40 crore (Vijaya Bank, Kohima and Axis Bank), thus resulting in an over statement of cash balance by Rs.21.43 crore.

According to the department, the said amount was paid as ‘advance’ for various purposes to officials and suppliers without recording the transaction in the cash book, the report said. Interestingly, further scrutiny revealed that a total amount of Rs. 1.59 crore has been paid to two officers, a former director (Rs.32.60 lakh) and a former joint-director (R.1.26 crore). Both the officers have since retired from service.

The government claimed on August 2008 that the advance of Rs. 21.43 crore was paid to the suppliers/firms as per the conditions of the work/supply orders. However, the report said that the department’s claim was not ‘factually correct’ as the MOU was signed with only two firms, Zopar Exports and Florance Flora in Banglore. Other suppliers were not eligible for advance payments as there was no provision in the supply orders nor any specific agreement executed for the purpose.

In the absence of any detailed expenditure of Rs. 21.43 crore, the CAG report said that “the money being misappropriated cannot be ruled out.” The chances of “recovering Rs. 1.59 crore from the two retired officers is remote,” the report further said.