Taking a serious note of the non-establishment of model schools in Jammu and Kashmir in the past 10 years despite the availability of Rs 44.13 crore, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has asked the state government to refund the unspent funds and fix responsibility.
In its Jammu and Kashmir report on Social, General, Economic and Revenue for the year ending March 31, 2019, tabled in Parliament recently, the CAG said the failure of the education department to take timely action for utilisation of funds received from the Centre deprived quality education to the intended beneficiaries.
“The matter was referred to the department/government in May 2020; their replies were awaited (September 2020). The State Government may ensure that unspent amount along with interest accrued thereon may be refunded in accordance with conditions laid down in the sanction order of Ministry of Human Resources Development and responsibility fixed for non-establishment of model schools,” the CAG said.
It said the department of school education and literacy (DSEL), Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), launched a scheme in November 2008 with the objective of having at least one good quality secondary school (Model School) in every educationally backward block (EBB).
“The scheme was to be implemented from 2009-10 onwards. As the State of Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) was a special category State, the funding pattern through Grant-in-aid for implementation of the scheme was 90:10 for GoI and Government of Jammu and Kashmir (GoJ&K) respectively,” the CAG said.
It said the GoJ&K submitted proposals (November 2009) to the Grant-in-aid Committee (GIAC) of DSEL, MHRD, for setting up of 24 (17 new schools and conversion of seven existing schools) for EBBs.
“During its third meeting (November 2009) the GIAC observed that the projected unit cost of 6.18 crore was higher than the scheme norm of Rs 3.02 crore per Model School and therefore, the State Government was required to either revise the estimate or to meet the extra financial burden.
“In the same meeting, the representative from the State of J-K informed the GIAC that the estimates will be revised so as to bring it within scheme norms. The GIAC thereby recommended 19 new model schools (November 2009) to be set up in the State,” the report said.
Thereafter, it said the revision of cost was stated to be submitted to Project Approval Board (PAB) in 2010-11 and subsequently, amendments were made to existing provisions by the Department of School Education and Literacy (DSEL), Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), which allowed (April 2014) Jammu and Kashmir an opportunity to revise the cost based on State Schedule of Rates (SSoR) in respect of the sanctioned 19 model schools for the EBBs as a one-time exception.
A proposal based on the SSoR 2012 was stated to be submitted (August 2014) by the GoJ&K to the DSEL as per the information provided by the State Project Director, Samagra Shiksha, J-K Noor Audit Report-Social, General, Economic and Revenue Sectors for the year ended 31 March 2019, the CAG said.
It said no relevant details of the revised proposals were provided on grounds that the office of the Directorate of Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) remained submerged in floods in the Valley in September 2014 for a period of more than 25 days and most of the records in hard copy were destroyed.
The Centre, in February 2015 delinked the scheme from GoI support. The grant-in-aid of Rs 25.82 crore (90 per cent) of the first instalment was released (February 2010) and State Government released Rs 2.87 crore (June 2010) to State Project Director (SPD) Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).
“The entire amount of Rs 29.23 crore was transferred in December 2010 and kept at the disposal of State Project Director, Samagra Shiksha, J&K Noor Society. Further, the State Government released an additional State share of Rs 2.87 crore (January 2011),” it said.
The CAG said the scrutiny of records (January 2019) of State Project Director, Samagra Shiksha revealed that the grants-in-aid of Rs 25.82 crore and State share of Rs 5.74 crore were parked in the saving bank account of J&K Noor Society – the State Implementing Society for Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan.
Even after a lapse of 10 years, the Government has not taken the adequate initiative (July 2019) for implementation of the scheme in Jammu and Kashmir, it said, adding the failure of the department to take timely action despite relaxation of norms for establishment of model schools not only resulted in non-utilisation of Rs 44.13 crore but also deprived intended beneficiaries of quality education.
“Even the State Share of Rs 5.74 crore, plus interest included in the Rs 44.13 crore was blocked,” it said.
When this was pointed out by the audit in January 2019, the Chief Accounts Officer, Samagra Shiksha, Jammu and Kashmir State stated (July 2019/June 2020) that the amount initially approved for the establishment of the model school was inadequate to take the construction work. However, the case regarding revision of cost submitted (2010-11) to Project Approval Board (PAB) was undecided (June 2020), it said.
“The reply is not tenable as the department has not availed the benefit to either revise the unit cost estimate of each school or to meet the financial burden despite relaxation of norms by DSEL. Besides, after delinking of the scheme from the GoI support in 2015, the department was to arrange the additional funds from its own resources for which no steps were taken and Rs 44.13 crore continued to be held in the bank account,” it said.