N. Dharam Singh, MP, has warned that strict action will be taken against officials who are found to be inefficient or corrupt.
Speaking at the district-level vigilance committee meeting to review the progress of Centrally funded works, Mr. Singh instructed Chief Executive Officer of the zilla panchayat Ujjwal Kumar Ghosh to initiate action against officials found guilty of delay in implementing development schemes, misusing funds or taking bribes.
“If you are convinced that any officer is corrupt or inefficient, take action against him. Suspend such officials and start departmental inquiries. I assure you that you will not face any political pressure because of these decisions,” Mr. Singh said.
He was responding to complaints by MLAs that officials routinely delayed approval for development projects, especially civil works.
Ishwar Khandre, MLA, complained that zilla panchayat engineers and other officials had been delaying approval for several projects that he had mooted.
“They have delayed movement of files regarding several road projects under the MLA local area development fund. I had to go from office to office seeking approvals and making sure that the files moved from one official’s table to another. This clearly shows that officials wait for considerations from contractors. Most of them seek cuts in the estimates. Development schemes will suffer till we move away from this percentage system,” Mr. Khandre said.
Raghunath Malkapure, MLC, also said that officials kept projects pending, expecting returns from contractors or others involved in the projects. This was a well-known fact, he claimed.
Mr. Singh said that he too had observed that such a system had led to the birth of touts and ‘commission agents’.
“These people thrive by promising to get works fast-tracked as they can influence officials with bribes. Though I clear projects without taking any commission, I see that the projects get stuck at several levels owing to these commission agents,” he said.
Officials said that schemes taken up under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) had slowed down as it was the sowing season. The pace would pick up after two months, they said.
MLAs observed that wage payment of around Rs. 75 lakh was pending with regard to works taken up last year.
Mr. Malkapure sought details of funds used for payment of wages and purchase of material. The number of job cards had come down to 1.7 lakh from 2 lakh over two years. This was because bogus cards had been weeded out and some applicants had to shift their savings accounts from the post office to banks, officials said.
Officials had detected several irregularities in implementation of MNREGA schemes and other projects. An example was the construction of a road in Humnabad taluk that was taken up twice under two schemes.
‘Not enough officials’
Deputy Commissioner P.C. Jaffer said that the district was suffering as there weren’t enough officials at various levels.
Because of this, each Panchayat Development Officer was in charge of three panchayats.
Several development departments had in-charge officials and there were no directly recruited taluk panchayat executive officers, he claimed.