In an effort to mobilise the funds needed for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s dream project of giving credit cards to students and post Cyclone Yaas restoration and reconstruction work, the state Finance Department has asked all the departments to refund unutilised funds lying in various accounts.
On June 7, state Finance Secretary Manoj Pant wrote to all the departments to surrender all the funds of the previous financial year lying unused by June 15. These funds, according to the letter, are those that have been transferred to the bank accounts of the departments or are local funds or ledger accounts.
According to senior officials of the state Finance Department, the government is presently going through a cash crunch and is in need of funds to tide over the present situation. In the post Yaas situation, the state needs a huge amount of money for the restoration and reconstruction work. Moreover money is also needed for some schemes that the government is likely to announce shortly.
“The initial estimation shows that there has been a damage of more than Rs 15,000 crore because of Yaas and the Centre has only disbursed Rs 400 crore and so the state will have to make an arrangement of its own so that the work can be completed within the deadline announced by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. In the present situation, it is impossible for the government to raise the money and so it is trying to negotiate the financial deficit though unutilised funds,” a senior Finance Department official said.
The state government also needs money for the ‘Students’ Credit Card’.
A senior official said as the state government is going to implement the students’ credit card scheme from July as promised by the Chief Minister, huge funds are also required for it. These unused funds can help a lot, he said.
He added that a meeting was held this week to implement the programme, under which students will get credit up to Rs 10 lakh for higher studies at a rate of interest of 4 per cent, on time.
According to the Finance Department official, other departments often use a technique to increase their own cash reserve. There are many cases when schemes are not completed within the stipulated time, but the unutilised money is not returned to the government, but parked in the PL or local fund accounts.
It is a technique of the departments to transfer the funds to various corporations of the departments or store it as fixed deposit in the banks, so they can use it according to their need at a later phase, the official said. He pointed out that the Principal Accountant General (PAG) had written to the Finance Secretary on April 26 for submitting the final reconciliation statement by June 30, as many departments did not submit proper utilisation certificates.
PAG Deepak Narain said that a large number of utilisation certificates were pending for grant-in aid. His letter said that from 2017-18 to 2019-20, the state government should submit utilisation certificates for Rs 23,43,75.78 crore. His letter stated that during inspection of 71 treasuries in 2019-20, it was found that there had been transfer of funds to personal deposit accounts in 15 treasuries. So, state officials are expecting a refund of several hundred crores which had not been properly utilised by various departments but had been parked as FD or in PL accounts.
However, the only good news for the state exchequer is that the Finance Ministry has released Rs 1,467.24 crore as part of the post devolution revenue deficit grant in June out of a total of Rs 9,871 crore to 17 states. In the last three months, West Bengal received Rs 4,401.75 crore out of the total amount of Rs 29,613 crore released as grants as per the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission to meet the gap in revenue accounts of the states post devolution.