The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has raised questions over the distribution of relief and assistance to the 2014-flood victims in Jammu and Kashmir, while portraying a dismal picture of disaster management in the state. Putting to audit an amount of Rs 1,369.16 crore, spent from State Disaster Management Response Fund (SDRF) from 2010 -11 to 2014-15, the CAG has pointed that 25 per cent (Rs 342.43 crore) of the expenditure meant for disaster mitigation purposes, was diverted towards ineligible works. The expenditure was even incurred on account of excess payments or procurements at higher rates, it said. The revelations were made by the CAG in its report on performance audit of disaster management in Jammu and Kashmir for the year ending March 2016. The report said despite multi-hazardous risks and occurrence of several disasters in recent past, the steps taken by the state government to prepare for and mitigate the impact of disasters were not commensurate with the task at hand. There were gaps and deficiencies in institutional arrangements, policy and plan formulation as well as implementation of pre-disaster measures.
There was considerable scope for improvement in the management of SDRF funds so as to both augment available resources as well as to ensure its utilization for the intended objectives of disaster preparedness and relief, the report said. The auditor said the lack of preparedness and processes including internal control and monitoring mechanisms necessary to ensure efficient and timely relief and rehabilitation on the occurrence of a disaster were self-evident in the disaster relief activities following the disasters that struck the state recently, including the floods of 2014.
There were deficiencies and delays in damage and need assessments, diversion of flood relief funds and delay in reaching relief and assistance to the affected persons or families, it said. Citing examples of mismanagement post the floods of 2014, the report said under the Special Plan Assistance (SPA), Rs 1,000 crore was provided for rebuilding damaged infrastructure in October 2014. “However, Rs 4.66 crore was spent in contravention of the SPA conditions and Rs 37.58 crore was spent for purposes not related to rebuilding the damaged infrastructure. “Overall, there was a lack of assurance that relief and assistance were provided to the actual beneficiaries in a timely and efficient manner despite availability of financial resources,” it said.
In another example, the audit noticed that the district administration Srinagar hired 504 boats for evacuation of affected people from flood-affected areas at a cost of Rs 1.77 crore, but the details of rescue operations viz area or location where the boats were deployed, number of flood affected people rescued, were not on record. Even the details of areas or camps where the rescued people were sent, details of arrangements of food and lodging in these areas or camps were not on record. The audit also noted that Rs 1.77 crore was paid to the president of the All J-K Shikara Owners Association. As per the sanctions, payments were to be made in the range of Rs 38,000 to Rs 10,000.
Scrutiny of the bank statements of payments made to the boatmen by DC Srinagar revealed less payment of Rs 30.16 lakh, the report said. In addition, it said, 58 boatmen to whom hire charges of Rs 20.02 lakh were sanctioned by the DC Srinagar were not reflected in the bank statement. The audit check of bank statements to the Shikara Owners Association showed that Rs 41.68 lakh was paid to persons who were not reflected in the lists of boatmen prepared by DC Srinagar. It was also noticed that Rs 9.50 lakh was drawn by the president of the association on self cheques for disbursement to boatmen.
However, no records were available to verify whether such payments were actually made, the CAG said in the report, adding the procedure adopted by the DC Srinagar for making payments to boatmen provided no assurance that the funds disbursed actually reached the individual boatmen. The report pointed out that the state government authorised the Jammu and Kashmir Industries Limited (JKI) for procurement of tents for providing temporary shelters to the families whose houses were fully damaged. While JKI procured 20,345 tents at a cost of Rs 13.26 crore, the audit observed that 4,467 tents valuing Rs 2.84 crore were lying unutilized and 536 tents valuing Rs 34.04 lakh had gone missing during transit from Srinagar to Anantnag and Budgam.
Hence, nearly 25 per cent of the tents procured valued at Rs 3.18 crore could not be used for the intended purpose, the report said. Citing another glaring example of mismanagement of funds post the floods, the CAG said the government provided Rs 2.14 crore under the SDRF to the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) for collection and disposal of garbage and carcasses and the SMC incurred an expenditure of Rs 1.37 crore.
However, records showed that number of tipper trucks and JCBs shown utilised by the SMC was at variance with the number verified by the ward officers (sanitary inspectors). An amount of 31.26 lakh was made in excess of payments verified by ward officers, the report said. It said that while the entire garbage was shown collected and disposed off by the SMC, an amount of Rs 1.3 crore was provided to Public Works Department (PWD) from the SDRF for restoration of washed out or damaged roads was also shown spent on lifting of garbage, clearance of drain in the city between October and November 2014.
The details of vehicles utilised by the PWD for the disposal of garbage, including the details of agencies from whom they were hired were not on record. While the PWD claimed that the sanitation work done by them supplemented the work done by the SMC, the financial advisor and chief accounts officer of the SMC stated that the entire city had been cleared and no area under the SMC was left out or ignored during the cleanliness drive.
Hence, the expenditure of Rs 1.3 crore included in the works bills for restoration of roads could not be verified by audit, it said. The report said the district authorities of three test- checked districts of Srinagar, Anantnag and Budgam changed the status of damage in respect of 4,114 houses after the lapse of periods ranging from four months to one year after the floods. This involved an extra expenditure of Rs 8.8 crore from the SDRF, the report said.
It said funds amounting to Rs 12.25 crore were utilised on 1,208 works actually started or executed prior to the occurrence of the floods and Rs 10.21 crore was utilised for purposes not covered under the fund guidelines. A total amount of Rs 27.36 crore of SDRF was utilised on ineligible works and normal repair and maintenance works.
The audit also observed that Rs 31.44 crore was released to seven departments that were not eligible for assistance under SDRF. Further analysis revealed that these ineligible departments incurred an expenditure of Rs 14.97 crore on items which were not associated with flood damage, the report said.
The CAG pointed out that relief and evacuation were not provided to the victims of the floods in a timely and effective manner. The audit observed that this was due to the absence of adequate damage and need assessment, lack of effective coordination and monitoring by any nodal agency for procurement, transportation and distribution of relief materials. Diversion of funds and irregular spending or spending on ineligible items in contravention of SDRF guidelines were some other reasons, the report said. It said the initial and subsequent assessments varied from 11 per cent to 137 per cent, leading to delays in arranging materials and procurement of supplies that adversely impacted provision of timely assistance to the affected people.
The CAG also said had the government made progress and properly implemented two schemes for improvement in flood spill channel, the impact of the 2014 floods would have been mitigated. Scheme for improvements to flood spill channel by way of construction of central cunnette (2008-09) was taken up to deal with the reduced carrying capacity of the Jhelum river due to accumulation of sediments from various nallahs (streams). This was subsumed in the flood threat to river Jhelum scheme (2010-11). Under the first scheme only about 81 per cent and under the second, only 68 per cent of the total targeted flood spill channels were treated.
Further, Rs 1.98 crore under the first scheme and Rs 9.2 crore under the second were utilised for the purposes not related to the scheme objectives. Had the two schemes been progressed and implemented as per their detailed project reports, the impact of the floods would have been mitigated, the report said.
Apart from the mismanagement of funds post the 2014 floods, the report also mentions that Rs 26.52 crore was released from the SDRF during 2010-14 for relief and restoration without declaration of disaster in terms of the state disaster management policy.
The report recommended the state government to strengthen the mechanisms for pre-release scrutiny and post-release monitoring of SDRF funds to ensure that the funds are released and utilised only for the purpose of providing relief to persons affected by disasters and are not diverted for other purposes. It also recommended the government to conduct vulnerability, hazard and risks assessment especially in the 13 multi-hazard districts and prepare risk maps that would enable formulation of informed strategies and prioritization of resources for disaster preparedness including an early warning system.