CAG Report tabled in Odisha Assembly; Here are highlights

Bhubaneswar: The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) was tabled in the Odisha Legislative Assembly, today.

The report features performance and compliance audit for the year ended March 2020.

The important audit findings are listed below.

* The expenditure of the Departments of Government of Odisha under Economic Sector in 2019-20 was Rs 25,693.84 crore and constituted 22.44 per cent of the total expenditure of Rs 1,14,491 crore incurred during the year.

* The State of Odisha is mandated to manage, conserve and protect forest and wildlife resources in the State through afforestation and regeneration of degraded forest lands. The forest cover in the State is assessed as 51,619 sq. km, which is 33.15 per cent of State’s geographical area as per India State of Forest Report 2019.

This Performance Audit on “Assessment of Plantation Activities” covering the period from 2013-14 to 2017-18 revealed the following:

  • Shortfall in achievement of plantation targets ranging from 11.98 per cent to 50.89 per cent during the period from 2013-14 to 2017-18 indicated fixation of unrealistic targets. Data required for the planning procedure in respect of degraded forest land and vacant revenue land were neither maintained at Government nor at Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) level.
  • Forest Divisions were working without approved Working Plans/ Working Schemes due to failure to evolve State Forest Policy (SFP) in line with National Forest Policy.
  • Sal species is the principal indigenous species of Odisha but Teak was planted as major species, thereby affecting the originality of the vegetation and biodiversity.
  • There was no coordination at the level of Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) and District Rural Development Authorities in planning the plantation projects executed under MGNREGS in a division.
  • The department incurred unfruitful expenditure worth `13.17 crore as 191 out of 485 plantations were not successful.
  • Target for Compensatory afforestation programmes under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority was not achieved within the stipulated period of three years and hence, could not compensate the forest cover against the diversion of forest land.
  • Aerial survey of the plantation sites using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) revealed concentration of plantation activities in easily accessible areas like land along the pathways, leaving the degraded patches in the middle of dense forest unplanted.
  • A Joint Physical Verification including representative team from forest division was conducted to confirm the existence and to assess survival of the bamboo plantation at Baghdangar Protected Reserve Forest (PRF). The officials of the division could not identify even a single planted bamboo to Audit and the site was a failed plantation.
  • Although planting of seedlings was actually not taken up in the Aided Natural Regeneration (ANR) without gap plantation but the cost norm provided for watch and ward during the entire regeneration period of four years. This inappropriate provision led to avoidable expenditure of Rs 63.19 crore.
  • Though the various components of plantation works of Block plantations and Urban plantations were similar, the provision of man days for urban plantations was fixed unreasonably higher which led to avoidable extra expenditure of Rs 39.80 crore.
  • Irregular allotment of funds for fencing and 3rd year maintenance under Urban Tree Plantation led to irregular expenditure of Rs 14.82 crore.

* In a work of raising and strengthening of embankment without construction of sluice over Sapuanallah left with a gap between the embankments deprived seven villages of protection from ingress of flood water and crop damage. This rendered the expenditure of Rs 17.40 crore unfruitful.

* The Honorable High Court of Odisha quashed the price variation/ escalation orders for payment/ adjustment of escalation charge on materials, labour and Petrol, Oil and Lubricant. In violation to the above orders, two Executive Engineers paid Rs 90.12 crore towards price variation to contractors.

* Contrary to the Finance Department order, the department allowed 15 per cent supervision charges of Rs 42.15 crore on the value of a work against the admissible rate of 10 per cent (Rs 23.58 crore) which led to excess payment liability of Rs 18.57 crore.

* The Executive Engineer did not ensure the availability of land during preparation of Detailed Project Report for construction of embankment. The work was abandoned midway and the flood protection to the nearby villages could not be ensured despite incurring an expenditure of Rs 9.87 crore.

* Adoption of higher capacity of crane of 80 tons instead of the actual requirement of 35 tons capacity crane for lifting of armoury stone boulders of not less than one MT inflated the estimated cost of 10 works resulting in undue benefit to the contractors of Rs 7.72 crore.

* Adoption of higher vehicle damage factor than prescribed in Indian Roads Congress (IRC) specifications increased the provision of unwarranted excess pavement layers on the road surface. This resulted in an avoidable extra expenditure of Rs 8.11 crore.

* Despite availability and economical costs of slag, the EE did not consider slag for sub-base in the estimates and instead opted for GSB material (stone product) for three road works. This resulted in extra expenditure of Rs 2.12 crore.

* Odisha Mining Corporation Limited estimated cost of production of bauxite on lower side for which the company sustained loss of revenue of Rs 61.07 crore.

* Odisha Mining Corporation Limited in violation of provisions of gratuity act paid excess wages of Rs 5.31 crore in lieu of gratuity and leave salary towards engagement of security agencies.

* Odisha Construction Corporation Limited under estimated the annual income for advance income tax payment which resulted in avoidable payment of penal interest of Rs 3.57 crore.

* Undue favour to the Contractor by reimbursement of Rs 2.45 crore towards fictitious supply of cement by Odisha Construction Corporation Limited.

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