Himachal Pradesh PWD had not provided inputs to MLAs for the prioritization of projects under NABARD.

Public Works and Planning Departments had not provided inputs to MLAs for prioritization of projects under NABARD and selection of projects was made without anticipating bottlenecks, coordinated approach, and comprehensive analysis of projects. Out of the 106 projects sanctioned during 2013-18, no project was sanctioned for distressed areas against 65 projects recommended by MLAs although roads were sanctioned for already connected villages.

Project prioritization and sanction
As per State Government instructions (December 2010), before recommending projects for inclusion in the Annual Plan, the MLAs should have prior consultation with the local PWD Executive Engineers (EEs). As per NABARD guidelines, priority should be given to new projects and projects in distressed areas. The Public Works Department is to ensure sanctioning of projects across all constituencies.

(i) Lack of prior consultation –
Audit noticed that for the projects recommended by MLAs during 2013-18, there was no record of prior consultation with EEs in PWD; thus, technical inputs were not obtained before recommending projects. The Planning Department had also not checked for compliance with the requirement of prior consultation by MLAs with local EEs before the inclusion of the projects in the Annual Plan. This aspect was also not discussed in the High Power Committee meetings chaired by the Chief Secretary.

(ii) Uneven geographical spread of sanctioned projects –
The details of projects recommended by MLAs and sanctioned by NABARD during 2013-18 are given in Table-2.1.2 below:

Of the 293 sanctioned projects recommended prior to 2013-18, 34 projects of Rs. 158.45 crores were sanctioned for 16 constituencies having distressed panchayats. However, of the 106 sanctioned projects recommended by MLAs during 2013-18, no project was sanctioned for distressed areas against 65 projects recommended by MLAs for these areas.

(iii) Sanctioning of projects for already connected villages
During joint physical inspection carried out (May and June 2018) by Audit, it was noticed that in three (out of 17) test-checked divisions, three projects were sanctioned (between October 2009 and June 2016) for Rs. 9.78 crores to connect three villages that had already been connected by roads (under PMGSY). The already-connected status of these roads was not disclosed in the DPRs. Expenditure of Rs. 4.66 crores was incurred on execution (formation cutting, retaining and breast walls, metalling/ tarring, etc.) of these projects.

Thus, funds were spent on the roads to already connected villages which could have been utilized for the construction of roads for connecting 7,628 out of a total of 17,882 unconnected villages in the State.

Regarding the lack of prior consultation, the ACS, in the exit conference, stated that although informal consultations were usually held between MLAs and EEs before recommendation, the matter of devising some system of formal recommendations would be taken up in the MLAs meeting. In respect of the uneven geographical spread of sanctioned projects, the Advisor, Planning stated (May 2018) that projects under NABARD were sanctioned on the basis of MLAs’ recommendations and sanctions depending on the pace of preparation of DPRs by the Public Works Department. Regarding the sanctioning of projects for already connected villages, the ACS stated (December 2018) that the projects were sanctioned as per the prioritization of the MLAs. However, the State Government had not discharged its responsibility of advising MLAs before the recommendation of projects and was therefore responsible for the deficiencies in project prioritization and sanction highlighted above.

Thus, projects were sanctioned without identifying and addressing bottlenecks, distressed areas were not given due attention, and funds spent on roads to already connected villages could have been utilized for construction of roads to distressed areas and other high priority roads: 7,628 (out of total 17,882) villages in the State remained unconnected by roads as of January 2019.

Recommendation: The Government may consider devising a suitable system for prioritization of projects by MLAs as per documented inputs of Public Works and Planning Departments, accord priority to projects for distressed areas in order to facilitate balanced development.

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