Shimla, April 3- A performance Audit reveals shortcomings in Himachal’s ULBs.
According to a report by the Comptroller & Auditor General of India, the efficacy of implementing the 74th Constitution Amendment Act in Himachal Pradesh needs to be improved. The audit, which covered the period from April 2015 to March 2020, found that although the State statutes complied with the provisions of the 74th CAA, the legal provisions needed to be backed by effective decisions and actions, particularly in devolution of functions.
The audit also revealed that although the State Government had carried out amendments in the State statutes to comply with the provisions of the 74th CAA, these amendments needed to be supported by firm action to empower Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to discharge their functions freely and effectively. Out of the 18 functions listed in the Twelfth Schedule of the Constitution, ULBs were solely responsible for only five functions, while for four functions, they were mere implementing agencies. ULBs had a limited role for six functions with overlapping jurisdiction of state departments and parastatals. For two functions, they had no role at all.
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Of the 54 ULBs in Himachal Pradesh, only 22 have their accounts audited regularly. The audit found that the accounts of the remaining 32 ULBs needed to be appropriately maintained, and there were significant irregularities in their financial management. In addition, only 13 ULBs have implemented the double-entry accounting system, considered a best practice in accounting.
The audit also found that meetings of Houses of ULBs were held infrequently, with only 35% to 95% of mandatory meetings being held between 2015 and 2020. Ward Committees were not constituted in any test-checked ULBs except in Municipal Corporation Shimla. District Planning Committees were not prepared and submitted by the ULBs.
The audit report also highlighted the poor state of infrastructure in many ULBs, particularly regarding water supply, sanitation, and solid waste management. It was found that many ULBs lacked adequate water supply infrastructure, resulting in a shortage of drinking water. Sanitation facilities were located to be inadequate in many areas, and solid waste management systems were either nonexistent or poorly managed.
Only 11 out of the 54 ULBs in the state could provide a 24×7 water supply to their residents. In addition, the report found that many ULBs did not have adequate sewage treatment facilities, leading to the release of untreated sewage into water bodies.
The audit also revealed that many ULBs could not collect property tax effectively, leading to a loss of revenue for the local government. Only 12 out of the 54 ULBs were able to collect more than 50% of the property tax due to them, according to the report.
In terms of financial management, the report found that many ULBs could not prepare their budgets on time, leading to delays in the execution of development projects. In addition, many ULBs needed to have effective internal control mechanisms to ensure that public funds were used efficiently and effectively.
The audit report also recommended that ULBs be given more autonomy in financial management and decision-making and held accountable for their performance.
The audit report has raised concerns about the overall effectiveness of ULBs in Himachal Pradesh and has called for urgent action to improve the provision of essential services and financial management.
The CAG has recommended that the state government take steps to strengthen the capacity of ULBs to manage their finances effectively and to improve their performance in providing essential services to their residents.
Overall, the audit report underscores the need for greater attention to be paid to the performance of ULBs in Himachal Pradesh to ensure that they can meet the needs and expectations of their residents in a timely manner and efficient manner.