CAG- The New Indian Express

By: Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has exposed massive financial mismanagement and wasteful expenditure of the Forest department in its plantation program. The CAG noticed a shortfall in the achievement of plantation targets during 2013-14 to 2017-18 from 11.98 percent to 50.89 percent under different plantation programs.

“Achievement of plantation targets during the period ended with the unreasonable shortfall, which indicated unrealistic fixation of targets. Due to the non-availability of data regarding degraded forest land and vacant revenue land, the planning procedure for plantation was limited to only instant data provided by field staff on a piece-meal manner,” the performance audit of the year that ended March 2020 said.

The audit report tabled in the Assembly on the concluding day of the monsoon session on Monday said the department incurred unfruitful expenditure worth `13.17 crore as 191 out of 485 plantations were not successful. The reasons of failure were an improper selection of plantation sites and a delay in the submission of plantation project proposals by divisional forest officers (DFOs).

The department had set a target to take up plantation on over 8.8 lakh hectare while the achievement was only 4.32 lakh hectare, a shortfall of 50.89 per cent. “Although planting of seedlings was actually not taken up in the aided natural regeneration (ANR) without gap plantation but the cost norm provided for watch and ward during the entire regeneration period of four years. This inappropriate provision led to avoidable expenditure of `63.19 crore,” it noted.

Conducting the audit in 13 out of 49 forest divisions where plantation programs were carried out, the report said the audit team and forest officers physically verified 41 plantations and found 20 failed plantations and seven partially successful plantations with an unfruitful expenditure of `2.67 crore.
Even as various components of plantation works of block plantations and urban plantations were similar, the provision of man-days for urban plantations was fixed unreasonably higher, which led to an avoidable extra expenditure of `39.80 crore.

Lack of a State Forest Policy (SFP) in line with National Forest Policy by considering local geo-climatic conditions has resulted in inadequate planning in the enhancement of green cover in the State “Forest divisions were working without approved working plans. There was no coordination at the level of divisional forest officers (DFOs) and district rural development agencies (DRDAs) in planning the plantation projects executed under MGNREGS in a division,” the report said. It further said that neither the DFOs nor the department had information on total job card holders available in a division which affected the plantation execution.

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