IMPHAL | Jun 13: In what could be said to be a major reputation setback for the BJP government, Manipur state exchequer has finally been found to have overspent its budget, throwing a monkey wrench to chief minister N Biren Singh’s administrative machinery.
In a punitive move, a cabinet meeting chaired by Biren Singh has axed its NPP partner,the deputy chief minister Y Joykumar from holding the Finance portfolio, and from the saffron party’s own fold, Thounaojam Biswajit is relieved of the plum Works portfolio including Power. A probe has been initiated to the errant department’s financial misappropriation. The issue was said to have been discussed with Ram Madhav who came down to review the political imbroglio here last Tuesday.
The portfolios removed from the errant ministers have been put in the charge of Biren Singh.
The takeover comes a day after an urgent cabinet meeting held at the CM bungalow gave authorization to Chief Minister to take all necessary disciplinary actions to imbibe a culture of financial prudence properly in key Government departments.
However, the deputy chief minister Y Joykumar cried foul and said that he was at the cabinet meeting yesterday and it never approved nor discussed the agenda of removing portfolios.
Despite the complaint which came later, an order to this effect was already issued by the Chief Secretary, J Suresh Babu on behalf of Manipur’s Governor, re-allocating portfolios of Y. Joykumar Singh and Works and PWD Minister Th. Biswajit Singh.
The cabinet meeting also agreed for conducting a thorough investigation of the sanctioned procedure of financial management for all key departments.
A statement released by the Chief Minister’s office said, “The Government is committed to bringing a new phase wherein financial discipline will be the hallmark of Governance”, hinting that that there has been a financial skulduggery happening in departments held by Biswajit and Joykumar.
The Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday has banned all transactions fund from Manipur Government’s account citing withdrawal of funds in excess of the arrangement agreed upon with the RBI.
Manipur Government is currently grappling an overdraft of Rupees 247.48 crore, exceeding 36 days in a quarter, as per the scheme of ‘Ways and Means Advances’ for the year 2019-20.
Experts are predicting that Government employees will be the first ones to bear the immediate brunt of the crisis depriving them of their salaries, pensions etc.
However, Chief Minister today assured its employees that timely disbursement of salaries and benefits will not be impacted. Putting his foot down with the financial crises and its origin, N. Biren has also ordered an inquiry into Public Works and Power department over the excessive withdrawal of funds.
It is learnt that the funds were withdrawn during March to May last while the Model Code of Conduct was in force for the recently concluded Lok Sabha election. This points out that a proper code of conduct was not enforced in reality but just on paper.
A committee consisting of three bureaucrats with principal secretary, V Vumlunmang as the chairman, commissioner cum OSD to chief minister Nidhi Kesarwani, deputy secretary W Ajit Singh as members was formed to immediately examine into the details of funds withdrawn and the purposes for which they were intended and if the works match with the funds.
The committee will also, examine large withdrawal by other departments. The question is now left to the inquiry committee on whether they will be able to find out any dirty accounts to prove that the BJP was right in axing Joykumar and Biswajit and if the inquiry report will be made public.
The Chief Minister also gave strong instructions to all administrative secretaries and head of departments to provide the required documents and information called by the said committee on time.