The Indian Express

With just months left for the Gujarat Assembly’s tenure to end, over Rs 325 crore–or 32 per cent–of the MLA local area development fund remained unspent as in March 2022, a report released by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel on Friday showed.

Under the MLA local area development fund scheme, every MLA can recommend or suggest developmental work worth Rs 1.5 crore in their constituency. The district planning board keeps the account of the funds. In the four years between 2017-18 and 2021-22, Rs 1,004 crore was sanctioned, of which Rs 850 crore was released and Rs 677 crore spent. The expenditure at the end of March 2022 stood at 67 per cent of the total sanctioned amount, said Pankti Jog, state coordinator of the ADR, at a press conference. “The unspent amount will expire once the term of the Gujarat Assembly ends this year,” she added.

Asked why MLA fund data for 2020-21 did not figure in the report, Jog said the funds spent during the period were not shown in the record as MLA funds. “The data provided to us for this year is shown as zero. When we asked the government (about it), we were told that the government had not allowed MLAs to recommend use of the fund for 2020-21 and that the government had used it for fighting Covid and providing healthcare facilities,” she said.

During the four years for which data is available, out of the 53,029 sanctioned works, 40,428 works (76 per cent) were completed as in March 2022. A total of 6,094 works could not be started despite getting sanctioned, with reasons not being known.

The report also shows that 77 per cent of funds sanctioned for tribal areas were spent till March 2022 and Rs 77 crore of MLA funds remained unspent. The data on the MLA funds was compiled through RTI requests filed with all district planning boards by the two organisations. A few districts gave information on compact discs, while others transferred the requests to the authorities that had received the funds.

According to Jog, there is limited transparency in the planning, execution, monitoring and expenditure of the MLA funds in the state.

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