Tura, Jan 7: The lady bureaucrat deputed two years ago to the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council by the Meghalaya Government to halt its falling fortunes, whose attempts at streamlining the system was initially met with stiff opposition from within, has announced on Thursday that the oldest political establishment is slowly on the road to recovery.
Meghalaya Civil Services officer Smt Rikse R Marak told a gathering of invited political leaders and NGOs at Tura Circuit house that there is now a semblance of progress in the GHADC which was plagued for years with revenue loss and unaccounted employment.
Leaders of political parties like Bernard Marak of the BJP, J D Sangma and Dabo Marak of the NPP, academician Sanggra A Sangma, former militant outfit leaders of the now defunct ANVC like Chairman Dilash Marak and general secretary Wanding Marak, Garo Student union leader Manseng A Sangma, FKJGP Pritam Marak, ADE chief Dalseng Bira Momin attended the meeting.
Addressing the leaders of various bodies and groups, the GHADC Secretary said that it had become pertinent to reach out to each stakeholder of society about the condition of the district council because of misinformation being given out by vested interests.
“Lots of misinformation has been spread leading to suspicion about the financial position of district council. We want all stakeholders to know the truth,” said Rikse Marak.
She cleared the air about the release of funds amounting to a couple of crores of rupees and the accusations of its alleged ‘mishandling’.
“Money by way of grants and funds given by the centre and state to the district council for developmental works cannot be diverted for salary payment. It is meant only for development projects,” said Marak.
In recent weeks and months the striking NGEA staff had alleged that several crores of rupees released by the centre to GHADC could have been used to pay their pending dues instead of being misused.
To this, She clarified that grants or funds for projects are strictly scrutinized and utilization certificates are mandatory. “Audit is conducted on utilization of the funds by teams from the Accountant General Office and the Local Fund Audit office. It cannot be misused,” she warned.
Pointing to years of ‘mismanagement’ of the financial situation of the council, Secretary Rikse Marak said that the steps taken within the last two years have immensely helped to streamline the system in the district council.
Giving details, she mentioned that from an earlier position of over 2000 staffers, the council now has a reduced strength of just 1600. Wasteful expenditure has been curtailed and digitization of the entire council is being planned no pilferage takes place.
She did acknowledge that though there are 17 departments in the GHADC, only a handful are bringing in revenue. Some departments like Agriculture and Transport have been found to be a total failure in revenue generation, it was revealed.
According to the Secretary, the salary bill of the 1600 strong employees of GHADC comes to almost Rs 4 Crore each month whereas the revenue generated across all departments does not even cross the 1.8 Crore mark.
“We are seriously looking at various ways and means to strengthen the financial position of the GHADC. Since the time I took charge there has been no permanent appointment given to anyone. Council inspection bungalows where there is a need for caretaker appointments we are only giving consolidated salaries of 8-10,000. In the 24 months I have been in charge we have ensured salaries were released for 13 months. Around 30 percent streamlining has already taken place,” claims Rikse Marak.
She concludes by saying that complete digitalization of GHADC is the only and permanent way to ensure transparency in revenue collection and generation because even the current practice of a single window system has failed to curb revenue loss.