Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Against Tall Claims

The stand-alone performance audit report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) pertaining to Assam for the year ended March 31, 2008, as revealed to the media by Principal Accountant General (Assam) Mukesh P Singh on Tuesday, has exposed a number of loopholes, anomalies, non-utilization of funds and failure to release funds on time. This is against the oft-repeated tall and pompous claims of Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma as to the ‘success’ of his health missions, especially NRHM. According to Singh, the State government increased its outlay on health care during the review period in keeping with the programme guidelines but failed to utilize the available funds optimally to strengthen the health care infrastructure and delivery at the grassroots level during 2005-08. The CAG report points to the woeful inadequacy of the number of health care centres in rural areas ‘‘resulting in non-achievement of the primary objective of the programme (NRHM) to provide accessible health care facilities to the rural population’’. But the sharpest indictment of the State government is in the area of ‘‘basic accounting records’’ that ‘‘were not maintained at both the State and district level, leaving scope for fraud and misappropriation’’. Himanta Biswa Sarma owes an explanation to the people of the State as to why he has failed to effect discipline in the basic accounting records so that siphoning of funds to private coffers could be prevented. Schemes for rural areas, as this newspaper has said here time and again, are an excellent opportunity to pocket the funds meant for the poor who can be easily hoodwinked in the name of development. The report in question is yet another indication. THE SENTINEL

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