May 11, 2015 4:38:13 am
The auditing of the Upper House of Parliament has become an uphill task as the latest “inspection report” of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat shows.
This audit covers the period 2012-13 and was finalised last year. Annual Secretariat budget for the period was Rs 278 crore.
The audit was conducted by Director General of Audit, Central Revenues. CAG officials said the unit deals directly with “sensitive” departments like the Secretariat and it was unlikely now that paras of these findings would find mention in a report which will be placed in Parliament.
The report also reveals that objections and discrepancies detected in earlier inspection audits have still been listed as “outstanding.” Senior Rajya Sabha officials, who did not want to come on record, stated that they have since replied to all queries raised by CAG. They, however, admitted that some listed “outstanding” issues had first been raised by the CAG seven or eight years ago.
The current report shows “non compliance” against a list of 16 audit objections marked earlier which had been piling up over the years. They include irregular payment of cheques to the tune of Rs 393 crore; irregular payments to the tune of Rs 101 crore; disposal of obsolete items worth Rs 1.8 crore without auction and irregular award of contracts for equipment worth Rs 1.6 crore.
Other audit objections yet to be explained include irregularities in hiring and purchase of vehicles; improper planning in setting up of Rajya Sabha TV and purchase of laptops.
The report has focused on the “huge expenditure” incurred by RS Parliamentary Committees on study tours in the country.
While guidelines state that five-star hotels should be used only in case Government Guesthouses were unavailable, auditors have listed 19 tours where five-star accommodation was arranged for MPs and RS officials at the cost of Rs 47.6 lakh. It has been said “authenticity” of this expenditure could not be ascertained since required certificates of non-availability were not taken from Government Guesthouses.
The report has highlighted several other administrative anomalies such as the manner in which RS staff got “undue benefits” and took two advance—and excess—increments in 2006 and 2008 that were not adjusted against annual increments eventually due to them.
The report notes, “The circumstances under which crores of rupees were paid to the employees which were waived subsequently may be explained. Necessary action may be taken to recover such amount from the concerned employees under intimation to audit…”
Other audit objections have been raised in the manner in which computers and accessories were procured for the Secretariat and RS TV through single tender valued at Rs 4.6 crores. The auditors have revealed that no open tenders were called for nor propriety article certificates provided by the Secretariat as per rules. “The reason for which the codal provision was not followed at the time of procurement of computer and accessories may be explained to audit.”
Also, there has been no settlement of the sanctioned Rs 58.4 crore for work done by CPWD for the Secretariat. The report has sought an explanation in this regard.
The setting up of RS TV has come in for serious objection. It has been pointed out that since Lok Sabha TV had the provision for setting up a second channel and it could have been launched for merely Rs 1.55 crore.
The report states, “Poor coordination between LS TV and RS TV led to decision of setting up of exclusive independent RS TV channel at a cost of Rs 23.84 crore, the cost of which was further enhanced to Rs 42.82 crore. Had more efforts of bringing RS TV and LS TV channels under common network been made, the cost escalation to the tune of Rs 22.29 crore could have been avoided.”
Several other financial irregularities in the running of RS TV have also been pointed out. For instance, the channel gave contracts worth Rs 64.40 lakh to 19 firms for producing documentary films without obtaining performance security from them.
The auditors have described as “irregular” a cost escalation of Rs 80 lakh allowed by RS TV in a Rs 6.60 crore contract signed with filmmaker Shyam Benegal for making 10 episodes of “Making of the Indian Constitution”.
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