Dimapur, September 25 (MExN): The state’s highest and most powerful institute – ‘Lokayukta’ is continuously functioning in total violation of the Nagaland Lokayukta Act, 2017, the Nagaland Voluntary Consumers’ Organisation (NVCO) said on Sunday.
In this connection, the NVCO Press & Media Cell issued a press release highlighting the series of events that led to the appointment of a Lokayukta in Nagaland and the subsequent resignation of the Lokayukta in 2021 citing ‘unpleasant environment circumstances’ and ‘hostile environment.’
It also pointed out that the Upa-Lokayukta Mayang Lima was one of the candidates who contested on the NDPP ticket during the last Nagaland Legislative Assembly Elections
In the release, NVCO President Kezhokhoto Savi, a law practitioner, highlighted the relevant provisions of the Nagaland Lokayukta Act, 2017, and said that the state government had constituted a Search Committee consisting of Chief Secretary and Advocate General of Nagaland after the resignation of the former Nagaland Lokayukta. “However, instead of appointing Nagaland Lokayukta within six month the state government moved for amendment of Nagaland Lokayukta Act, 2017 just to keep the said post vacant for a longer period i.e. one year instead of six-months,” it pointed out.
Stating that the Lokayukta is a ‘great check on corruption’ specifically among public servants, the NVCO stated that in Nagaland, “the corrupt practices includes abuse of power, nepotism, bribery, extortion, embezzlement, fraud, etc.” It also underscored various “peculiar corrupt practices” such as deduction of commissions from development project funds in the name of party funds and higher offices, appointing non-government employees to the rank of commissioners, secretaries/joint secretaries/PRO/Media officer/assistant, etc., appointing several non-legislator to hold cabinet rank as advisors, bringing back retired employees to departments as ‘Consultant,’ backdoor appointment, misuse of public funds and properties, drawing monthly salaries without attending offices, fund-raising by way of asking donation, selling various commodities, at an exorbitant rate, drawing the full amount of project fund without completing the work, etc.
Another concern it highlighted was the detection of misappropriated funds by several departments in the CAG report tabled before the session of Nagaland Legislative Assembly; “but no action is being taken in the court of PAC which consisted of legislators.”
In this connection, it said that during the recent 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly session, a report by the CAG for the year ending March 31, 2018 stated the state government has “incorrectly used the funds that belong to its employees” under the National Pension Scheme (NPS), and that the Chief Minister of Nagaland who holds finance portfolio presented Rs 365.33 crore deficit.
The CAG Report detected anomalies in various government departments which include the misappropriation of Rs 215.89 crore by 18 government departments. The CAG had also urged the state government to lodge First Information Report (FIR) in all the cases of misappropriation and loss to the government so as to ensure that timely action was taken.
Further, it said that the latest CAG report had highlighted that “Nagaland failed to submit Rs 600 crores UCs for 251 projects” and the CAG said that the high, pendency of UCs (utilisation certificate) is fraught with the risk of misappropriation of funds, which would lead the state to lose out on central funds.
Stating that the major defaulting departments were Rural Development with Rs 184.35 crore; Planning and Coordination with Rs 166.54 crore, and education at Rs 73.65 crore, the NVCO appealed to the public to remain a watch dog on the state government’s action. The biggest upset, it said, was “how long the PAC would remain ineffective/fruitless towards corrupt practices.”
Accordingly the NVCO said that the institution of the Lokayukta “has to be revived urgently as the rates and level of corruption charges in Nagaland is very high, be it in the government’s employment sector or in its financial transactions.”
The CAG of India after an audit, had expressed grave concern over recurrent cases of excess and fraudulent withdrawal in the finance department. It was disheartening to learn that Nagaland was among the worst performing states and UTs as per the assessment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) India Index & Dashboard 2020-21 where it is tabulated annually by NITI Aayog in order to evaluate the progress of States and Union territories of the basis of social, economic and environment criteria, it said.
Further, it said that the ‘one year’ timeline for appointing a new Lokayukta in the state expired on February 5, 2022. “Even after the expiry of one year the present Upa-Lokayukta is still holding and discharging the powers of Nagaland Lokayukta in total violation of Nagaland Lokayukta Act.”
In the selection of Nagaland Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayukta in Nagaland, the NVCO cautioned the state government “not to commit the same mistake while selecting a person for Nagaland Lokayukta or Upa-Lokayukta as it would amount to playing with the highest institution in the state which is in dire need to check the corrupt public servants and punish them.”
The NVCO further cautioned politicians “not to lobby for their own candidate if at all they support the institution to truly function as per the Act.”
It further appealed to the public to come forward to voice for strong Lokayukta in Nagaland so that the right person with integrity and a willing heart to truly curb corruption would be appointed.