M A I N   N E W S

CAG bares toll tax racket
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 5
It is not only about burdening the common man by imposing toll tax, but it is also wrong utilisation of central government funds.

The annual performance audit of the Punjab’s Public Works Department by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has brought out shocking facts about the way the state government unnecessarily went ahead to levy toll tax to recover cost of the projects given to private contractors on built operate and transfer (BOT) scheme whereas it had been given Rs 103 crore by the ministry of road transport and highways.

Pointing out anomalies in spending crores out of the Central Road Fund (CRF) by the PWD, the CAG has said that due to wrong utilisation of funds, the money released by the ministry was forfeited and the general public was burdened with toll tax to enable private agencies executing the BOT project to recover the cost along with profit and interest.

Citing the case of the Balachaur-Garhshankar-Hoshiarpur-Dasuya road, the CAG has pointed out that despite having the central funds, the work was awarded to a private contractor at a cost of Rs 102 crore. The agency is to recover the cost by imposing toll tax in the next 17 years.

Similarly, the ministry at a cost of Rs 7.59 crore administratively approved the work on improving the Nabha-Gobindgarh road. Though there were sufficient central funds to pursue the work, the state department decided to transfer the work to an agency on BOT basis. After deciding to hand over the work on BOT, the department spent Rs 2.60 crore to lay semi-dense bituminous concrete at the cost of the state exchequer.

Due to lack of planning, the department took up work of widening the Chandigarh Landhran-Chunni road only to realise later that the land was not free from encumbrances. A scrutiny of records of the executive engineer, Mohali, said the work on widening of the road was granted administrative approval in September, 2001, for Rs 2.54 crore. After awarding the work, action to acquire some portion of the land under section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act began in April, 2002, and the SDO concerned found that some portion of the land was with the zila parishad and rest was with landowners.

The landowners of Landran have filed a case in the high court for which the decision is pending. The CAG said after spending Rs 1.10 crore, the agency stopped the work in April, 2004, because of the dispute of land and the work is lying incomplete since then. As a result the funds blocked and the intended purpose to provide free flow of traffic was not achieved. Though the department claimed that the site was free from encumbrances at the time of submitting the proposal, the CAG said the department was aware about the issue since 1952.

Meanwhile, Punjab PWD minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, said the wrong utilisation of the central funds was during the pervious Congress regime. “Since the Central Road Fund is collected by levying cess on petrol and diesel, it is the state’s money and we have written to the concerned ministry to get back the funds”, he said.



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