While the government is grappling with a huge fiscal deficit and hence large borrowings to fund key social sector schemes, staggering sums of up to Rs 1 lakh crore in a year out of the money allocated to various ministries remained unspent between 2005-06 and 2007-08.
Unspent provisions of Rs 100 crore each or more alone totalled Rs 59,000 crore in these years, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General. The CAG has so far reviewed accounts till 2007-08. The Union account for 2008-09 is still being readied.
Whats worse, the CAG has pointed out that there is uncertainty even about whether all the amounts shown as spent in government accounts have actually been spent. In 2007-08, for instance, more than Rs 51,000 crore was allocated under various flagship schemes in which the money is directly transferred to the bank accounts of NGOs, autonomous bodies and district authorities.
Whether these amounts have actually been spent by the organisations or are lying idle in their accounts is a moot point, the CAG has noted, observing that since these fall outside the purview of government accounts and hence the Centres checks, this is an alarming situation.
The unspent grants are a shocking indicator of the governments poor budgeting mechanism and the failure of its monitoring tools put in place ostensibly to keep a tab on the progress of some of the key flagship schemes.
Even the Union governments monthly accounts for the current fiscal, maintained by the Controller General of Accounts (CGA), the official account keeper, reveal that some of the ministries have failed to learn lessons from the past. Their expenditure till December 2009 was not more than 50% of the annual budget though just three months remained for the end of the fiscal year.
Unspent provisions of Rs 100 crore and above have been in key departments implementing many of the governments social sector schemes in health, education, rural development and food and public distribution, besides capital acquisition for the defence services.
A budgetary grant or appropriation not utilised indicates either poor budgeting or shortfall in performance or both, the CAG said. In 2007-08, the latest finalised Union account available, unspent provisions of more than Rs 100 crore, which need a detailed explanatory note to the Public Accounts Committee, occurred in 60 cases.
In 2007-08, under 97 grants of civil ministries, there was an unspent provision of Rs 1,08,000 crore. These unspent grants are supposed to be surrendered to the government as soon as these are foreseen without waiting for the last day of the year.