Terming the Pay and Accounts Office (PAO) system a “significant reform” for curbing corruption and pilferages, Minister for Finance, Education, Labour and Employment, Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari, today said the state government will introduce the innovative payment system in a phased manner for larger public good.
“While the PAO system will hit at the roots of corruption in Jammu and Kashmir, we can’t ignore the fact that our infrastructure is not yet ready to handle such a major fiscal reform. However, we are grooming our manpower with new skills before the state migrates to the new system of payments which will be done in a phased manner,” he said.
The Minister was addressing a delegation of Jammu Kashmir Central Contractors Coordination Committee (JKCCCC) who called on him at his private office in Sheikh Bagh here to apprise him about various issues faced by the government contractors while working for implementation of the state government’s agenda of development on the ground.
Describing contractors as part of the J&K’s developmental ecosystem, Bukhari said the PAO system is a radical reform of the state government meant to eliminate corruption and usher the state in a new era of transparency and accountability. “Initially, we have suspended its roll-out but in coming months, we will run on both traditional treasury system and PAO system, before migrating fully to the new system,” he said.
The minister was informed that the state government has already released 50 percent of budget allocation to all the departments for the next fiscal and it was communicated that in the month of March, the expenditure should be limited to 15 percent of the budget estimates.
However, the contractors sought removal of the clause, arguing that it will impact the pace of the developmental works. “Money is not a problem for this government. I assure you that payments will be released on time and the Clause of 15% expenditure till March will be removed for all departments so that the flow of capital for developmental works going on in the state is not impacted,” he said.
The minister was also apprised of the issues faced by the contractors and builder firms in the state after migrating to the Goods and Service Tax regime. They said a number of issues including law and order problems force the authorities to shut down internet services which impacts their filings of tax returns.
Bukhari assured that their demand of waiver of penalty on contractors due to non-clearance of GST within stipulated time due to prevailing circumstances, will be examined considerately. “I am looking forward to a positive response from the officials at the centre with whom the state government has raised the issue. This year, we will streamline the GST system so that the state ushers in a new era of transparency and accountability,” he said.