The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in a report, has questioned the allotment of public lands to institutions for educational purposes. These lands were reportedly not utilised for the stated purpose. It pointed out rampant misuse of such public lands and the laxity of the government in acting against such violations and in getting the said lands back. The CAG findings were on the basis of an audit carried out in 114 cases in the five districts of Kolhapur, Nashik, Raigad, Solapur and Thane.
Slamming the government, the CAG observed that over 2.13 lakh square metres of land in the audited cases were found not being used for educational purposes. “A scrutiny of records in four (out of the five districts) revealed that in 15 cases, land measuring 2.13 lakh square metres was allocated to education societies. But the societies had not utilised this land for the said purpose till June 2016,” the report stated, adding, “Despite the expiry of the utilisation period, the government had not resumed the land.” It has further stated, “Another 4,000 square metres of land in Nashik was allotted for education purposes. The land was allocated on occupancy basis.
As per the report submitted by the talathi, the land was found barren and no construction was found on the land. The piece of land should be returned to the government, the CAG stated. The CAG has also flagged several cases where the public exchequer was put to a loss due to short recovery in such land allotments. The collective loss runs into several crores, the report states.
Objections were also raised regarding improper grant of stamp duty exemptions, collectively worth several crores, to industrial units, tourism promotion units, and special economic zones. In fact, the CAG has found that nearly 43 per cent— 3443 out of 8017 industries granted exemption between April, 2007 and March, 2016 — did not commence activities, but the government continued with their exemptions.
In the case of SEZs, the CAG observed that 98 out of 307 SEZs extended duty exemptions on the basis of Letter of Approvals (LoA) had not established their units. It was further found that 16 builders in Thane and Kalyan, who had sold 480 flats worth Rs 121.88 crore between 2010-15, were not registered with the sales tax department and had not paid the required value added tax.
Further, the CAG came across 41 contractors – who had been awarded works totalling Rs 149.39 crore by various urban local bodies – who were dealers whose registration certificates had been cancelled. Another 455 contractors, most of them engaged by the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation, were not found to be registered with the sales tax department in violation of norms.
In the case of transport receipts, the CAG has objected that the motor vehicles department had not recovered Rs 411 crore in passenger tax and child nutrition surcharge from six fleet owners, including the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST), which alone was responsible for Rs 217 crore. The CAG has further observed that the department had collected Rs 199.89 crore between 2010 and 2016 in environment cess from aging transport and non-transport vehicles, but had neither budgeted it nor provided for it.