Ongole: Disappearance of panchayat funds stuns sarpanches

The panchayat office of Kondamudusupalem in Kandukur mandal
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The panchayat office of Kondamudusupalem in Kandukur mandal

Highlights

  • Sarpanches are clueless on disappearance of 15th Finance Commission funds from the accounts of panchayats without any request for withdrawal or authorisation
  • As per the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission, the Union government allocated `1,164 cr to the state for 2021-22, released `581.70 cr as first instalment in Aug this year
  • District panchayat officer says they don't know how much amount from the panchayats disappeared and to what account they are transferred

Ongole (Prakasam dist): The funds in the accounts of a large number of panchayats in the state are said to have disappeared in the last two days with no request for withdraw and authorisation from the sarpanches and panchayat secretaries. The sarpanches from the affected panchayats are alleging the government might have diverted the money without their consent when bills worth lakhs of rupees for completed works are still pending in the Comprehensive Financial Management System (CFMS), while some of them are preparing to complain to police to investigate on possible cybercrime.

In the absence of the sarpanches in the panchayats, the special officers took care of the affairs. At the time of notification of the sarpanch elections, the panchayats have a considerable amount, from the 14th Finance Commission funds, in their accounts.

Munagala Vasantha, unanimously elected sarpanch of Ardhaveedu panchayat in the district, said that though there was a long delay due to court cases in her taking oath, she attended to the needs of the village and spent Rs 70 lakh by taking loans, believing the availability of funds from the 14th and 15th Finance Commissions. However, she said that the special officers handed over them empty accounts, by transferring the balances to the government account.

As per the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission, the Union government allocated Rs 6,138 crore as tied grants for water and sanitation to Andhra Pradesh for the period of 2021-26. For 2021-22, the Centre sanctioned Rs 1,164 crore and released Rs 581.70 crore as the first instalment in August 2021.

The ministry of finance and the ministry of panchayat raj advised the sarpanches to strictly use half of the funds for the sanitation and maintenance of Open Defecation Free status, while the remaining half for the supply of drinking water, rainwater harvesting and water cycling, and deposited the funds into the panchayats.

Meanwhile, the sarpanches presented the bills for the earlier works to the CFMS and are waiting for the release of money to the contractors so that they can start new works. The sarpanches of various panchayats in Tripurantakam mandal, S Madhavilatha, PV Lakshmi, R Sudha, S Alivelamma and others said that they had taken up the developmental works in the last eight months, but the bills submitted at CFMS are not realised.

They said that they spent lakhs of rupees on the drinking water along with the government programmes like Jagananna Pacchathoranam, Swaccha Sankalpam, by taking loans. They said that they were shocked to see some of the 15th Finance Commission funds in their accounts disappear suddenly, with no details of the transactions. They submitted a representation to the Tripurantakam MPDO on Monday, demanding the return of the funds into their accounts.

It is said that about Rs 60 crores from the panchayats in the Prakasam district have disappered. The Prakasam district Sarpanches Association president Bezawada Srirama Murthy and founder president G Veerabhadrachari alleged that the government, which should provide funds to the panchayats for the welfare activities, had robbed them of their funds. They said that the government delayed the process of handing over responsibilities to transfer the 14th Finance Commission funds, and now 'looted' the 15th Finance Commission funds also.

They alleged that the government has committed cybercrime by transferring the funds without the authentication of the sarpanches and panchayat secretaries, and demanded an explanation from the panchayat raj minister Peddireddi Ramachandra Reddy.

The district panchayat officer G V Narayana Reddy told The Hans India that they do not know how much amount from the panchayats disappeared and to what account they are transferred. He said that they asked the local MPDOs to prepare the list of panchayats whose funds are missed and the amount, and send it to the DPO office.

However, the sarpanches association called for the protests at MPDO offices by the sarpanches and complain to the police about possible cybercrime to avoid risks in the future.

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