Panchayats' money spent without their knowledge: Union Secy

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New Delhi, Nov 04 (UNI) As much as 70 to 80 per cent of the Rs one to two crore allocated to panchayat bodies in a year was being spent without their knowledge.

The disclosure was made by Union Secretary Panchayati Raj T R Raghunandan while taking part in a discussion on RTI and rural local bodies.

Mr Raghunandan said the government had created many sub-committees of the gram sabha with the collectors as heads and these committees had taken over the powers of the panchayat body.

Most of these bodies do not know where the money sanctioned to them was going as it were the sub-committees dealing with different sectors like health, education, sanitation etc which were determining the expenditure.

In Karnataka, he said, a very interesting development had taken place as panchayat representatives had formed a federation for the purpose of obtaining information about schemes being implemented in their area.

Moreover, instead of disclosing information to the people, they were using RTI Act Block Development Officers to obtain information from them.

Mr Raghunandan said the obsolete nomenclature of accounts was also playing havoc with the budgetary allocation and their accounting, thus hampering in the provision of information to the people under RTI Act.

Giving an interesting example, he said that in Orissa, the money given for welfare of other backward classes was still being given under the head 'Other secretarial work'. In such a situation, it was very difficult to determine where the money was exactly going.

He, however, said the Ministry was doing a lot of work to improve the system and all states except two had accepted the proposal to change the accounting system.

The Union Secretary also disclosed that only 50 per cent of the money allocated for training panchayat representatives was being spent. ''Actually there was no capacity to build the capacity of heads and members of panchayat bodies,'' he said.

Acknowledging the efficacy of the RTI Act, he said the law had spurred a reform in the panchayat system, as the demand for information was forcing the bodies and to set their house in order.

The dscussion was part of the third Annual Convention of the Central Information Commission which was inaugurated here yesterday by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Chaired by rights activist Aruna Roy, the topic for the session was 'RTI--Need for a Different Strategy Specific to Rural Areas.' UNI NAZ SLD HS1446

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