Himachal Pradesh PWD Quality control mechanism was ineffective.
Quality control mechanism was ineffective as Executive Engineers of test-checked divisions had not taken action for rectification of deficiencies in 28 projects pointed out in 134 inspections carried out by State Quality Control Wing (32) and State Quality Monitors (102) during 2013-18.
Quality controls and monitoring
(i) Quality control
Quality control is essential for ensuring the execution of projects to the desired quality/ standards. Quality of execution of projects/ works was to be checked by the Department through State Quality Control Wing and State Quality Monitors (SQMs).
• Quality checks by Quality Control Wing and State Quality Monitors
As per instructions (September 2011) of the CE (Quality Control and Design), an inspection of all works above Rs. 0.30 crore was to be carried out at regular intervals by the EEs (Quality Control) as well as by SQMs. However, the periodicity of the inspection was not prescribed. During 2013-18, the SQMs had conducted 102 inspections of 43 projects in the 14 test-checked divisions while no inspection was conducted in the remaining three divisions. Out of 43 projects, 59 defects were pointed out in 28 projects but action taken reports for rectification of defects pointed out by the SQMs
had not been submitted by the divisions. Besides, 32 inspections were conducted in 29 projects by the EEs (Quality Control) but no specific deficiencies were pointed out and only advisory for improvement was issued. Some instances of sub-standard works were noticed during a physical inspection by the audit.
In the exit conference, the ACS accepted the facts and stated that new SQMs had been appointed and inspection of each road would be done regularly.
• Quality checks of projects near completion
As per directions issued (June 2011) by the CE (Quality Control and Design) Shimla, the final bill of a completed project was to be admitted by the EE on the recommendation of the SE based on his final inspection of the project.
Audit noticed that 129 projects were completed with an expenditure of Rs. 297.51 crores during 2013-18 in the test-checked divisions, but final inspection of the projects were not carried out by the SEs as required. Out of 129 completed projects, final bills of 101 projects (total expenditure: Rs. 239.13 crores) were passed by the divisions without final inspection by the SEs and final bills of the remaining 28 projects had not been passed as of March 2018. The ACS stated (December 2018) that necessary directions had been issued to all field agencies to finalize the bills of completed projects on the basis of the final inspection report of the SEs concerned.
(ii) Monitoring and inspection
Monitoring and periodic inspection of projects by concerned authorities is key to the effective execution of the projects. The shortfalls are discussed below:
• Monitoring by High Powered Committee
Against the required 20 meetings of High Powered Committee44 during 2013-18, 15 meetings were held resulting in a shortfall of five meetings. The discussion focused mainly on financial arrangements, submission of DPRs/ PCRs, and new proposals for funding under NABARD. The ACS stated (December 2018) that High Powered Committee meetings were conducted to discuss the issues of loan sanction, reimbursements gap position, slow-moving projects, etc. However, there was an only general discussion on the above issues in the meetings and specific cases of technical
deficiencies and benefits derived.
• Monitoring by a district-level monitoring team
State Government had constituted (December 1999) a district-level monitoring team in each district under the chairmanship of the Deputy Commissioner, with two members (Superintending Engineer and District Manager, NABARD) and District Planning Officer as Member Secretary. The committee was to meet on a monthly basis to review the physical/ financial aspects of the program and carry out random inspections. The Member Secretary was required to submit a report of the review in a consolidated manner to the Planning Department within a week of the meeting.
Audit noticed that during 2013-18, the district level monitoring team did not hold any meeting to monitor the projects financed by NABARD. Action for completion of the roads, utilization of funds, and reimbursement of NABARD loan in a timely manner was also not taken. Further, the team had also not carried out any sample inspections due to which the progress of the works was not physically checked. The EEs concerned admitted the facts.
• Inspections of projects by NABARD and departmental authorities
NABARD guidelines provide for monitoring of projects by NABARD and departmental authorities through periodic field visits. However, the periodicity of field visits was neither specified in the NABARD guidelines nor prescribed by the departmental authorities separately. In respect of 240 projects (out of 269) executed in the test-checked divisions during 2013-18, inspection notes/ site order books in support of the inspections carried out by departmental authorities (EEs, SEs, and CEs) were not prepared. This indicated that inspections if carried out, were not documented. Besides, NABARD had also not carried out any inspection during the above period.
NABARD authority stated (July 2018) that responsibility for inspection lies with the State Government. The ACS stated (December 2018) that regular inspections were being carried out by the departmental authorities. However, there were no inspection notes/ site order books in the 17 test-checked divisions from which the authenticity of such inspections carried out, if any, could be ascertained.
The cases pointed out are based on the test check conducted by Audit. The Department/Government may initiate action to examine similar cases and take necessary corrective action.
Recommendation: The Government may consider ensuring strict compliance with regard to quality checks to be exercised at various stages by different authorities, promptly rectifying the defects pointed out, and monitoring the execution of projects regularly for ensuring timely completion.
In view of the fact that these projects were being financed through loans from NABARD, it was imperative that project selection was judicious, the execution was time-bound and within the sanctioned cost as cost, overruns would not be financed by NABARD. In this context, the shortcomings detailed in the preceding paragraphs assume greater significance. The geographical distribution of sanctioned projects was uneven indicating faulty prioritization: distressed areas had not been given due attention, while at the same time, there were cases of roads having been sanctioned
for already connected villages. Project-level planning was deficient as preparation of DPRs took considerable time, projects were sanctioned without ensuring availability of encumbrance-free land and there were cases of incorrect/ unsuitable site selection and design. Scheme execution was marked by delays and cost overruns. In respect of the quality of construction, the practice of constructing non-metalled roads meant that there would be faster wear and tear/ damage to the road surface. The lack of attention towards quality was also evident from the fact that observations arising out of quality control inspections were not attended to. In conclusion, the shortcomings in planning and execution meant that the envisaged benefits did not accrue in time and at the sanctioned cost and that the quality of construction remained a matter of concern. The cost overruns on account of project delays and additional costs necessitated on account of faulty designs and substandard/ poor quality work would have to be borne by the State Government through budgetary outlays in the future.