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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Rampant embezzlement of public funds


Of late there have been media reports about non-maintenance of accounts by the three district councils of Jaintia Hills, Khasi-Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills — as pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)– which has led to rampant embezzlement of public funds by these constitutional bodies.

I am tempted to openly ask the public of Meghalaya as to who are responsible for electing the MDCs and why the CAG of Meghalaya, which is constitutionally mandated to keep a tab on the income and expenditure of these bodies by auditing their accounts from time to time, allow to do whatever they like with public funds for so long? Why are they not made accountable to anyone for the huge sums of money they collect by way of their own collection of taxes, shares of taxes from state government, royalties, tolls, fees etc., and the huge grants under Article 275 and special grant assistance from the Finance Commission? All these yearly revenues add up to several crores of rupees. It is a fact that the district councils not only do not maintain their accounts timely, but are also irregular and haphazard because there are no proper systems of accounting.

What is urgently required is to overhaul the whole system of maintenance of accounts by inducting experts in accountancy so that everything is up to date. More important is to inculcate a sense financial responsibility, accountability and transparency in these bodies. What was going on all these years was that money could be drawn and utilised at will based on the whims and fancies of those in authority in the executive committees. It was really a great puzzle to witness that in the name of some schemes how the ADCs’ funds were embezzled without any qualms of conscience by those in authority and without bothering the least that the funds belong to the public.

It must also be admitted that the CAG has failed many times in the past to prepare timely audit reports. It may not be out of place to suggest to the CAG that they may depute experts to impart intensive training to the ADC personnel who are dealing with the day-to-day accounts of the so that account-keeping records are correct and in order in all respects as deemed fit and proper as desired by CAG standards. This will also facilitate timely submission of accounts by the ADCs and make the job of the CAG easy.

Let us, from now on, hope that the ADCs here in our state will deliver good governance (which we, of course, doubt) and live up to the goals for which they are mandated by the Constitution and that the public funds entrusted to them are in their safe hands, devoid of the repeated bad news of defalcation and corruption by these bodies which they are duty bound to safeguard, preserve and protect the land, identities, culture etc., of the tribals here in Meghalaya.

Yours etc.,

Philip Marwein,
Sr. Journalist,

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