Babus, security agencies occupy plush huts since ‘90

SRINAGAR: Some government officials and security agencies owe Rs 67 crore to J&K Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) as rent for the plush tourist huts they have been occupying at prime locations in the state since 1990, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has said in its annual report.
CAG has reprimanded JKTDC for failing to recover the rent from the employees (mostly influential bureaucrats) and getting these huts vacated despite clear directions from Legislative Committee on Public Undertakings (PUC).
“The records show that an amount of Rs 67.35 crore was outstanding as of April 2013 against these agencies and employees for the period ranging from one year to 23 years on account of boarding and lodging charges,” the CAG said.
It said the PUC had directed JKTDC (in July-August 2012) to get the huts at Cheshmashahi vacated in a phased manner within a period of six months.
The JKTDC had hired out six hotels and huts to various government departments, security agencies since 1990. However, it had been persistently requesting the government to vacate the huts or alternatively raise the tariffs.
“However, no action had been taken by the company or government on the directions of the (PUC), and the accommodation continued to be under the occupation of government employees (August 2013),” the CAG said.
Slamming JKTDC, the CAG report said there was no system of raising bills at the end of each month, making reconciliation with the hiring department and monitoring recoveries. “Despite setting up of the recoveries cell, there was a total lack of coordination between the Finance and the recoveries wing,” it said.
“The deductions made from the claims preferred by the company had not been investigated and taken up with the respective departments. The claims for the months of July 2012, August 2012 and March 2013 to the extent of Rs 41.59 lakh raised by the company were disallowed by the Estates Department which had not been reconciled or investigated by the company,” the CAG said.

Against 71% rise in tourist arrival only 16% facilities increased
Commenting on the available infrastructure related to tourists in the state, CAG said despite an increase of 71 per cent in tourist arrival during 2011-12 over 2008-09, the occupancy levels in the JKTDC facilities increased only by 16 per cent during the period. It shows that the company “could not keep pace of its development of facilities with tourist arrivals over last five years,” it said.
The JKTDC earned a rent of Rs 37.70 crore (40 per cent) from the Estates Department. “Thus overall share of the company in the state tourism industry was meager,” according to the CAG report.
It said the JKTDC recorded 92 per cent increase in its revenue from rent during the period which was mainly due to revision in tariff rates.

Lack of proper tourist promotion strategy
The CAG said the state lacks proper tourist promotion and publicity strategy and termed advertisement and publicity necessary for the promotion of tourism.
It said the JKTDC had incurred expenditure on advertisement and publicity during 2008-13 ranging between Rs 6 lakh and Rs 17.19 lakh (0.26 and 0.50 per cent of the revenue respectively) during these years. The General Manager (Administration) of the company stated (March 2013)  that the advertisement and promotion activities were the mandate of Tourism Department and over a period of time it had been observed that the Tourism Department “had not advertised the properties of the company.”

Delay in completion of works
CAG noticed that six out of 21 schemes taken up during 2006-07 to 2009-10 at a cost of Rs 11.30 crore were not completed as of March 2013 and the delay in completion in respect of three schemes was due to failure of the department to utilize the available funds.

No plans for tackling tourist inflow
The auditor also said the state government had not formulated short term and long term plan on tourism.
It said that in order to meet the growing demand with the increase in tourist flow in the state a comprehensive tourism strategy and short term and long term perspective plans based on inputs provided through base line surveys carried out for identification of potential tourists destinations were required to be formulated by the department.
The CAG noticed that the government had not formulated a comprehensive tourism policy (as of October 2013). The work of preparation of vision document and Master Plan allotted (January 2012) by the department to a firm for completion within four months had not been completed as of June 2013. The firm had submitted draft final report for Kashmir during January 2013.

Illegal constructions in tourist areas
The CAG said there is no system in place to keep watch on illegal constructions and unplanned development of the tourist areas and to grant permission for development of land or construction of building.

Incomplete projects despite huge expenditure
The auditor pointed out that out of 38 projects sanctioned during 2009-11, only 19 projects were completed as of March 2013.
“There were excesses over original estimates to the extent of six per cent to 1400 per cent in 213 works. Six out of 21 schemes taken up under 12th Finance Commission award during 2006-10 at a cost of Rs 11.30 crore had not been completed,” it said.
The assets created at 12 different tourist locations by incurring an expenditure of Rs 15.55 crore were not in operation due to shortage of skilled manpower.
As per valuation carried out by the Engineering Wing of the JKTDC  in June 2011 at 40 different locations, the company possessed assets worth Rs 136.33 crore.
“Audit check of records showed that land assets of the company had not been mutated in its name (June 2013). Besides, the books of accounts of the company did not portray the true and fair view of the asset holdings of the company,” the CAG said.
It said that scrutiny of records showed that the company has not prepared its assets upon which the buildings had been constructed or which was appurtenant thereto had not been physically verified and got mutated in its name (June 2013).
“Thus, huge land reserves at various prime locations owned by the company had not been demarcated and chances of land having been encroached were real. In absence of this information the books of accounts did not portray the true and fair view of the asset holdings of the company,” the CAG report added.