Kolkata: With a semi defunct Lokayukta, corruption is being institutionalised in West Bengal, RTI activist Biswanath Goswami has alleged, based on information revealed through an RTI. The extent of corruption runs so deep that a number of projects in the state have not been audited for years, while the CAG audit is also being stopped by the state government violating all norms, the social researcher further claimed.
According to Goswami, till now the state Lokayukta has been unable to settle any case filed with it and no outcome has been obtained of setting up of the anti-corruption ombudsman organisation in the state. The RTI revealed that while all complaints filed with the Lokayukta were valid, the organisation refused to share the details of the cases under the RTI act, which is a gross violation of the act.
Not only that, Goswami also said that most cases filed with the Lokayukta have lapsed as the time frame allotted has exceeded. The maximum time allotted for each case to be disposed under the Lokayukta is one year.
Several allegations of excess fund release and expenditure have also been raised against the Lokayukta, the RTI activist pointed out, adding that, however, “the Lokayukta has no website or any system of sharing any information for the public of the state”.
Highlighting the serious anomalies in fund management by the state government, he said that the government has refused to share these details even with the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). It has also been revealed that more than 70 of the projects including Sabuj Sathi (Green companion, a scheme to provide cycles to young women), no practical audit has been made so far. The projects run into a few lakh crore rupees for which audit with CAG has not been taken up, he alleged.
It is interesting to note that prior to the Assembly elections, even though CM Mamata Banerjee and PM Narendra Modi were seen to be debating over the mandatory CAG audit for receiving grants from the Union government by the states, the rule was not implemented and the state got grants in spite of failing in giving all information to CAG for conducting audit.
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Except for the Kanyashri project (scheme to provide cash transfers to young women to reduce dropout rate and prevent early marriage), where the total costs have been shown at Rs 1.24 lakh crore, the Mamata Banerjee-led government has so far refused to part with audit information in case of any social projects, Goswami said. The concerned RTI activist has also complained that there are are serious discrepancies in the social audit done in this case.
Meanwhile, the current Chief Information Commissioner of West Bengal, Basudeb Banerjee, who was earlier the Chief Secretary to the Government of West Bengal had previously stated that if the CAG is not happy with the proceedings, they can write the same in their reports which are then presented in the Assembly. He had also refuted any allegation that any information regarding the audit of social projects in the state was withheld from the auditor general.