More than a decade and half after the MLA Local Area Development scheme started in Orissa, it seems to be plagued by poor planning and execution, diversion of funds, lack of participation by locals and supervision by district collectors with MLAs showing little interest in it, the first-ever audit of the scheme by Comptroller and Auditor General has found.
MLALAD scheme was started in Orissa in 1997-98 on the lines of MPLAD scheme introduced by the Centre. Funds under the scheme were provided in the State’s plan budget of planning and coordination department every year. In 1997-98, funds of Rs 5 lakh was provided per MLA.
Subsequently, the amount was revised and during the years 2008-09 to 2009-10, it was Rs 75 lakh and then Rs 1 crore in 2010-11.
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As per the draft CAG report on the performance of MLALAD scheme, execution of projects were delayed between 6 months to 54 months as no time-frame was fixed for recommendation of projects. While sanction of projects took anything between 10 to 514 days, preparation of plan and estimates took time of 55-1005 days. Delay in recommendation of projects resulted in delay in execution of projects which resulted in non-completion of 6809 of the 30263 sanctioned projects between 2008-09 to 2012-13.
Though the fund is supposed to be utilised for small but essential projects based on the local needs, there was no mechanism in the scheme for the people to communicate their needs either through gram sabha or any othr means. Of the 2763 cases for the period, none of the projects were based on needs or demands of the public.
Though the MLAs were supposed to send the priority list of works to the collector at the beginning financial year, in 27 constituencies the MLAs did not make any recommendations. In Puri district, four MLAS in six cases did not recommend any project during the year of allotment and furnished the recommendation in subsequent years after a gap of 1-3 years. In Bhadrak, Puri and Jajpur ministers and MLAs were reminded time and again through verbal and telephone, but still they submitted the project proposals late. In Satyabadi constituency, the MLA submitted the entire project list of 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 in April 2013 after a delay of 3 years. The Brahmagiri MLA did not recommend any project during the year 2009-10 while the MLAs of Nimapara and Kakatpur did not recommend any project in 2012-13.
Though money was sanctioned, but no planning was done for upkeep and maintenance of the assets which resulted in the projects becoming non-functional. No agreement was signed with the user groups containing the clause that they would main the assets. In Deogarh district hospital, a cold drinking water project was constructed at a cost of Rs 3.57 lakh, but due to non-maintenance the system is lying defunct since one year. There was also no electricity supply to the water cooler. In Mayurbhanj district, at least 13 streetlight projects executed in 2008-13 at a cost of Rs 18.02 lakh were lying defunct or partially functioning condition as no one looked after the maintenance of the lightposts.
Though under the rules, construction of church, temple, mosque, clubhouse, yubak sangha house, ashram and matha were not admissible under the MLALAD scheme, between 2008-13, 66 such works were undertaken. In Basudevpur block of Bhadrak district, Rs 50000 was sanctioned for completion of Maa Kali Community Centre during 2010. But after completion, it was found to have been converted into a small shopping complex and let out on an annual rent of Rs 13850. The money was being collected by the local Maa Kali Puja Committee to meet the expenses of annual kali puja.
In Kantapada and Tangi Choudwar block, Rs 1 lakh was sanctioned for a concrete road of Olatpur Mahadev and Maa Tarini temple respectively. But in its place, new temples were constructed.
On the otherhand, in at least 44 cases, MLALAD fund was used for office expenses, printing of fly leaf, phone bill, electricity bill, fuel bill and other sundry expenses.
Though the State released Rs 661.5 crore under MLALAD between 2008-09 to 2012-13, the percentage of utilisation reduced over the years – from 93 per cent to 32 per cent. In nine of the districts, of the Rs 333.72 crore funds available under the scheme, the District Rural Development Agency released only Rs 258.27 crore(77 per cent of the available fund) to executing agencies while the rest remained locked in bank accounts. Though MLALAD funds were not supposed to be diverted to other schemes, money was diverted to schemes such as Indira Awas Yojana, MPLAD and other such schemes. DRDA is the custodian of the fund received from the grant-in-aid to operate the PL account, but in several districts the funds were released to the executing agencies with delays ranging between 35-250 days after its sanction.