Herald: Xaxti Watch: Have Salcete panchayats lived up to the people’s expectations?

Xaxti Watch: Have Salcete panchayats lived up to the people’s expectations?

28 Apr 2019 05:13am IST
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28 Apr 2019 05:13am IST

The taluka of Salcete boasts 30-odd panchayats and Xaxtikars are known to take a keen interest in the functioning of their respective panchayats. JULIO D’SILVA takes a look at how Salcete pancahyats have performed, how they have fared when audited and also the problems with those meant to help these panchayats

 Lax village bodies  

Even while panchayats complain of lack of funds to carry out works in their villages, the audit reports of the year 2017-18 indicate that panchayats have been very lax about utilizing funds allotted to them and have been very casual about tax collection.
The 30 panchayats in Salcete received Rs. 12.76 crore in 2017-18 of which Rs. 9.20 crore remained utilised during the year. Cana Benaulim ranked first in receipts and also in utilised funds as it received a whopping Rs. 1.33 crore while had Rs. 67.76 lakhs as unutilized funds.
Velim panchayat stood at second position having receipts amounting to Rs. 86.27 lakhs followed by Colva that had Rs. 85.83 lakhs as receipts. Rachol having only Rs. 19.16 lakhs as receipts ranked lowest followed by Ambelim that had Rs. 19.21 receipts and Orlim with Rs. 20.07 lakhs as receipts ranked third.
Incidentally 25 of the 50 panchayats had more receipts than the expenditure while the five panchayats where the expenditure was more than the receipts were Camorlim, Carmona, Cavelossim, Ambelim and Cana Benaulim.
Colva panchayat having Rs. 61.16 lakhs as unutilized funds ranked second after Cana Benaulim. Amongst the panchayats with least unutilized funds Rachol ranks first as it has only Rs. 8.90 lakhs as unutilized followed by Camorlim which has not utilised Rs. 9.59 lakhs.
Three panchayats namely Curtorim, Rachol and Assolna are yet to utilize funds received under the 13th Finance Commission, while 10 panchayats are yet to utilize funds received under the 12th Finance Commission and they are Aquem Baixo, Chinchinim Deussua, Rumdamol Davorlim, Loutolim, Orlim, Colva, Cavelossim, Cana Benaulim, Nuvem and Paroda.
Rs. 10 lakhs received as golden jubilee funds in 2011 were lying unutilized even in 2017-18 by Cavelossim, Cana Benaulim, Seraulim, Betalbatim and Sarzora village panchayats. Besides Telaulim, Davorlim Dicarpale, Velim, Guirdolim, Chandor, Ambelim, Dramapur Sirlim, Assolna, Rumdamol Davorlim, Orlim, Navelim and Rachol have some funds received as golden jubilee grants still lying unutilised.
Interestingly nearly Rs. 1.53 crore of funds allotted in 2016-17 to the panchayats have not been utilised with Cana Benaulim ranking at the top again as it has not utilised Rs. 15.71 lakhs received that year. Ranked second is Sao Jose de Areal where Rs. 13.33 lakhs allotted that year and Navelim where Rs. 12.74 lakhs allotted that year were not utilised.
Cavelossim was ranked lowest as it had only Rs. 56,736 of funds allotted that year remaining unutilized followed by Betalbatim that had not utilised Rs. 97,515 and Macasana that had not utilised Rs. 99,374.
Only six panchayats namely Cavelossim, Ambelim, Dramapur Sirlim, Camorlim, Orlim and Betalbatim collected more than 50% of the taxes they were supposed to with Cavelossim ranking top having collected 72.55 per cent of the taxes. Chinchinim having collected only 24.69% of the taxes ranked lowest.
The panchayats are not even serious in collecting rent from the premises leased out. Raia has rented 21 shops and has arrears amounting to Rs. 3.76 lakhs from 8 shop owners while Aquem Baixo panchayat has to recover Rs. 1.74 lakhs and Velim has outstanding rent totaling Rs. 3.87 lakhs including Rs. 3.75 lakhs to be paid by Bank of India. Ambelim has to collect Rs. 7.89 lakhs from the seven new shop owners.
The auditors found huge variations in the budget estimates and actual of all the 30 panchayats in Salcete because of which they were termed unrealistic and fictitious. For example the variation in Nuvem panchayat was over Rs. 1 crore and Raia spent only 34.93 % of the estimated amount while in Orlim the variation was Rs. 30 lakhs.
The financial position of 10 panchayats was found to be good while that of another 9 panchayats was either quite sound or quite satisfactory. The financial conditions at Colva, Velim and Loutolim were found to be very good while that of Guirdolim was noted to be critical and that at Sarzora and Ambelim was found to be not satisfactory. Rachol it was improving.

Salcete p’yats receive step-motherly treatment

The administration apparently has given step motherly treatment to the panchayats and not acted as per the laid down norms due to which probably the panchayats tend to be a little lax in their functioning.
For example the Block Development Officer (BDO) is supposed to inspect the panchayats thrice in a year. However, BDO Amitesh Shirvoikar has inspected Raia panchayat only once and not inspected any of the other panchayats under his jurisdiction. BDO Milindra Velip did not inspect any of the panchayats under his jurisdiction.
The Extension officer is supposed to inspect each panchayat 5 times in a year. However, the EO has inspected Colva, Betalbatim, Loutolim, Chinchinim, Velim, Guirdolim, Assolna, Orlim, Sao Jose de Areal and Rachol panchayats twice and the Camorlim panchayat thrice. This is probably because the EO was appointed in the middle of the year.
The panchayat secretary who is appointed by the government has to furnish a surety bond which is a Rs. 500 fixed deposit in a postal account or nationalized bank. However only five secretaries in Salcete have done this and they are Purshottam Alve of Orlim, Uday Phaldessai of Varca, Krishna Dessai of Sarzora, Joaquim Rodrigues of Navelim and Krishna Gaude of Sao Jose de Areal.
Transfer of secretaries by the administration continued to haunt the panchayats in 2017-18. Only five panchayats namely Cana Benaulim, Colva, Aquem Baixo, Loutolim and Velim had only one secretary while all others had their secretaries transferred with Carmona having nine secretaries in that year followed by Colva and Navelim that had five secretaries.
Government Departments are also tardy in payment of rent of premises leased out from the panchayats with the Electricity Department that is prompt to disconnect power supply being the biggest defaulter.
Electricity Department owes Curtorim panchayat Rs. 1.82 lakhs, Davorlim Dicarpale panchayat Rs. 1.19 lakhs, Paroda panchayat Rs. 48,960 and Guirdolim panchayat Rs. 2.09 lakhs. Besides, Health Services has to pay Davorlim Dicarpale Rs. 1 lakh, Goa Police has to pay Rumdamol Davorlim panchayat Rs. 2.41 lakh and BSNL had to pay Chandor Cavorim Rs. 14.201.
Sao Jose de Areal and Camorlim had the same person elected as sarpanch after the new body was elected but Carmona had five persons officiating as sarpanch during that year and the panchayats of Davorlim Dicarpale, Raia and Nuvem had four sarpanchas.

Auditor’s Blunders

Going through the audit reports for the financial year 2017-18 of the 30 panchayats in Salcete it appears that the auditors got tired and made quite a few mistakes and hence deprived the villagers an opportunity to question the panchayat properly.
Given the timing of the panchayat elections, the panchayats should have had two sarpanchas barring a few expectations. However the team that audited Loutolim budget mentioned that it had only one sarpanch namely Inacinho Fernandes during the financial year 2017-18 even though Maria Rodrigues was the sarpanch earlier and Inacinho took over after the elections.
Similarly in Orlim the auditors mentioned that Tamica Rosa Silva was sarpanch even though Gaudencio Luis was sarpanch till June 2017.
The team that audited the accounts of Camorlim panchayat noted that the Development Plan was submitted to the BDO when in reality it is to be submitted to the Zilla Panchayat.
The teams that audited the accounts of Colva, Chinchinim Deussua, Ambelim, Rumdamol Davorlim, Loutolim and Nuvem did not comment at all on the number of court cases pending in those panchayat or the amount they had spent on legal fees.
The teams that audited the accounts of Raia, Chandor Cavorim, Rumdamol Davorlim, Aquem Baixo  and Nuvem were silent on the financial position of those panchayats.
The auditors that checked the accounts of Carmona and Macasana panchayats did not comment at all the works executed by the two panchayats in that year and the ones who audited Seraulim accounts was silent on the inspections by BDO and Extension Officer.

Panchayat’s functioning

While the 30 village panchayats in Salcete issued 668 construction licenses during the financial year 2017-18 as per the audit reports, there are as many as 716 illegal constructions reported in these panchayats.
Cana Benaulim that issued 72 constructions licenses ranks highest amongst the 30 panchayat for issuing such licenses. Interestingly the panchayat has not maintained a register for illegal constructions and hence the auditors could not note how many illegal constructions are reported in the village.
The panchayat to issue the second highest number of construction licenses was Raia where 54 such licenses were issued. Amongst the panchayats to issue the least number of construction licenses were Cavelossim, which issued only two such licenses followed by Rumdamol Davorlim where only three construction licenses were issued.
On the 716 illegal constructions in Salcete, Chinchinim had the highest number as there are 109 such constructions reported there followed by Loutolim where 95 illegal constructions are registered. Interestingly not a single illegal construction was registered at Ambelim and Betalbatim while only one was registered in Guirdolim.
The panchayats have a total of 269 cases pending against them in various courts with Davorlim Dicarpale that is involved in 25 cases having the highest number of court cases, followed by Sao Jose de Areal that has 23 cases and Curtorim which has 21 cases. Raia does not have any case pending against it while Rachol has one case and Orlim, Paroda and Sarzora have two cases each.
The panchayats have spent Rs. 6.49 lakhs as payment for legal charges. Interestingly the panchayats are entitled to pay only Rs. 30,000 per annum as legal fees but Curtorim, Carmona, Seraulim, Cana Benaulim, Raia, Velim and Chandor Cavorim have paid above that amount.
Curtorim has paid Rs. 98,000 as legal fees while Cana Benaulim has paid Rs. 78,000. Interestingly Raia panchayat despite not having any cases pending has paid Rs. 67,000 as legal fees to dispose off earlier cases. What is to be noted is that the amount paid is far above the permissible limit.
The 30 panchayats altogether executed only 47 works with Velim having executed 12 works ranking first followed by Cavelossim that undertook 10 works. The panchayats of Cana Benaulim, Colva, Ambelim, Rumdamol Davorlim, Varca, Aquem Baixo, Telaulim, Loutolim, Assolna, Orlim and Sao Jose de Areal did not undertake any works in that year.
While all the 30 panchayats submitted the Administrative Report to the BDO, 13 panchayats did not submit the Annual Action Plan to the Zilla Panchayat and they are Colva, Betalbatim, Telaulim, Paroda, Dramapur Sirlim, Rumdamol Davorlim, Loutolim, Seraulim, Benaulim, Nuvem, Carmona, Rachol and Aquem Baixo.
While the panchayats are supposed to hold four ordinary gram sabhas every year, Raia, Sarzora , Velim and Sao Jose de Areal conducted only three gram sabhas while Chinchinim conducted only two gram sabhas during the year. The Seraulim and Colva panchayats did not constitute any of the various committees it is supposed to constitute.

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