The Congress-led Punjab government has ordered a third-party audit of Rs 29,919.96 crore foodgrain loan taken by the previous SAD-BJP regime, the Punjab Assembly was informed today. Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said there was a huge gap between the cost of buying foodgrains and reimbursement by the central procurement agencies. “A third-party audit has been ordered (into the Rs 29,919.96 crore of loan taken by the previous regime),” Manpreet informed the House while winding up the discussion on the budget estimates.
He said after the report of the third-party audit was received, the responsibility of whosoever involved in it would be fixed. The announcement of third-party audit came despite several ruling party MLAs including Pargat Singh, Amit Vij and Kuljit Singh Nagar demanded CBI probe into the matter. “The previous finance minister did not find time to meet bankers on this issue. We are buying foodgrains on behalf of the government of India,” the minister said, adding the Government of India had even assured to share Rs 10,000 crore out of Rs 30,000 crore debt.
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“They (SAD-BJP) saved banks from turning accounts into non-performing assets…,” he said, adding the banks could have offered help to the state had they been approached properly. Taking a swipe, the minister said the previous regime gave approval for Rs 30,000-crore debt just a day before the elections results.
In a white paper on state finances for last 10-year period, the Congress government claimed that on account of ineffective presentation of the state’s claims by the previous government, the citizens of the state had been burdened with an additional debt of Rs 29,919.96 crore, implying an additional annual debt servicing liability of Rs 3,240 crore which would have been otherwise used to build social and physical infrastructure.
The Congress before coming to power had accused previous SAD-BJP dispensation of committing “wrongdoings” as there was a huge gap between the cost of buying foodgrains and reimbursement by the central procurement agencies. This issue had snowballed into a major controversy as the Centre had refused to release cash credit limit (CCL) for buying fresh foodgrain crop until the Punjab government settled the 20-year-long CCL dispute.
Later, the previous regime had decided to own up Rs 31,000 crore as loan which was to be paid in 20 years to settle the mismatch in stock. Earlier, participating in the discussion, Congress MLA Pargat Singh and Amit Vij demanded CBI probe from the government into Rs 30,000-crore foodgrain loan.
Manpreet while replying to the opposition charge of allocating lesser funds in the budget, said, “With few days of Congress assuming power in Punjab in March, the RBI stopped honouring the payment of the state government.” “The previous government left Rs 1,747 crore unpaid on account of subsidised ‘Atta Dal’ scheme for which Rs 3,210 crore were spent during last 10 years,” he said while highlighting how previous government left coffers empty.
He informed the House that treasury bills amounting to Rs 13,039 crore lapsed and said that he was confident that another Rs 7,000-8,000 crore was not even presented for payment. However, he hoped that state’s revenue would double in next five years because of 14 per cent growth in compensation of tax revenue for GST implementation. “In the first quarter-April till June, the state’s revenue grew by 30 per cent,” he informed the House. Later, the discussion and voting on demands for grants relating to the budget estimates for the year 2017-18 also took place and Punjab Appropriate Bill, 2017 was also passed by the House.