The Legislative Assembly Saturday passed Rs 95666.97 crore budget for J&K for the year 2018-19 with 20% step up over the last year’s budget size of Rs 79472 crore.
The Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bill-2018 moved by the Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu in the House in this regard was passed with voice-vote. Pertinently, for the first time in J&K’s legislative history, the Finance Minister has linked the Appropriation Bill with wide-ranging expenditure reforms to ensure checks and balances for efficient fiscal management and speed up spending to make productive use of resources for the larger public good.
Earlier, Dr Drabu had, on January 11 this year, presented the Budget proposals for 2018-19 in the House, comprising a revenue component of Rs 51244.72 crore and capital component of Rs 44422.24 crore.
Enumerating the fiscal reforms factored in the Appropriation Bill this year, Dr Drabu said the Finance and the Planning, Development and Monitoring Developments shall release both Revenue and Capital budget to all the administrative departments within two weeks of the passage of the Appropriation Bill.
He said the administrative departments shall, in turn, ensure release of funds to the subordinate offices within four weeks of their receipt, failing which these funds shall be deemed to have been transferred to the intended DDOs on the dates they ought to have been released by the administrative departments /Controlling Officers.
“Planning Development and Monitoring Department shall ensure that all plan allocations to be made in the next fiscal bear proper classification, indicating, name of the work/scheme against detailed Head-115 Works,” he said and added that in the absence of the schematic classification, the relevant Capex release shall be deemed as invalid and not open to being operationalization.
The Finance Minister said there no payments shall be made by any Treasury/PAO from 1 April 2018, under any expenditure head, if the releases for the same have not been made and further received by the spending and bill passing Officers via BEAMS.
“Treasury Officers/PAOs shall be personally liable for making payments on the funds released and received bypassing the BEAMS application,” he said.
Dr Drabu further said that the Planning, Development and Monitoring Department shall mandatorily upload on its website the department-wise “Name of the Schemes/Works/Projects”, forming part of the Capex budget for the fiscal 2018-19, along with the respective allocations.
He said the expenditure reforms across the departments shall further be strengthened by initiating measures including bringing complete transparency in the financial and administrative processes through increased IT interventions, ensuring authorisation of such works for execution only which have prior administrative approval, technical sanction and appropriate financial back up and ensure expenditure monitoring on real-time basis through BEAMS and PFMS.
He said the procurement plans of the departments for the next fiscal shall be limited by an outermost cap of 60 days, starting 1st April. “From conceiving the nature and quantity of public goods and services to be procured to preparing tenders/RFQs/EoIs to finally awarding the contract, the departments shall compulsorily finish the whole process by 30 May 2018,” he said and added that any spill-over in timelines shall be automatically visited with the appropriate disciplinary actions.
The Finance Minister made it clear that the funds shall be spent only on the approved items of the expenditure and strictly for the purpose they have been released.
“There shall be no re-appropriation of funds except where the departments have spent 55% of funds received ending December 2017,” he said and added that however, where their spending levels are below 55%, the remaining 70% funds shall lapse to the Government. He said the expenditure during the last quarter shall be restricted to not more than 30% of the Revised Estimates.
“Treasury officers shall have an added responsibility to ensure that the departments are held responsible to the above expenditure ceiling,” he said. Dr Drabu said the State Share of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes and the expenditure to be incurred on utility shifting, land compensation etc under PMDP projects shall be the first charge on the funds lapsing to the Government during the last quarter.
The Finance Minister made it clear that there shall be, henceforth, no engagement of casual workers, need-based workers etc by any department. “The Planning, Monitoring and Development Department shall, invariably, condition all developmental/plan releases to the departments to the unconditional vouchsafing by the latter that they shall refrain from making fresh engagements,” he said.
Dr Drabu said it is reassuring to note that a broader political consensus is emerging in Jammu and Kashmir to put in place a viable economic framework, a robust fiscal management structure and an achievable budgetary policy. “I express gratitude to the members of this august house, from both the treasury and non-treasury benches for putting across valuable suggestions on how to further improve the expenditure policy and ensure productive use of the resources in the larger interest of the State and its people,” he said and added that the fiscal reforms introduced over the past three years are aimed at bringing stabilization in JK’s economy and reduce volatility for economic revival through enhanced investments, public expenditure and widening the net of socio-economic security.
The Legislators, cutting across the political divide, hailed the extraordinary expenditure reforms outlined by the Finance Minister in the Appropriation Bill to ensure fiscal discipline and speedy and productive use of resources for the larger public good.