The Comptroller and Auditor General has the power to audit the expenditure of the funds of the government, Thomas Isaac, Kerala's Finance Minister has said. The opposition is not against the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board, but against the corruption and overspending involved in its functions, the opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, said. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the state CPM general secretary says it is an allegation to win the assembly by-elections, and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, also says the same. Chennithala rebuts them saying that he has been saying this since 2016 when the Kerala Assembly passed an amendment to exempt it from CAG audit. All the transactions of funds of Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund (KIIFB) should be investigated by CAG.
When the Left Democratic Front came to power they amended the rule which said that the CAG has the power to audit the fund. This is what Thomas Isaac refuted, saying the CAG can audit the fund. Pinarayi Vijayan has said the same thing and who is speaking the truth can't be said.
The CM has said the Opposition leader is wrong and Chennithala says the CM is wrong! In his reply to the questions, the CM seems to have not answered them properly. Chennithala’s questions to Pinarayi were: Why tender quoted a price much higher than the estimated expense? But the government says it was not applicable to the KIIFB. It gives loans at the rate of 8 to 9 percent. That is too high a rate.
The estimate for KIIFB is made by a Delhi based company, it is alleged. One question that arises is whether it has been approved by the Regulatory Commission. No.
If the lowest tender by the participants is 10 percent higher than the estimate of the KIIFB, then it has to be retendered. That's the government rule but it is not binding on the KIIFB. The Congress has alleged corruption of over Rs. 1000 Cr. in the Transgrid project of the KSEB funded by the KIIFB. This is a serious matter.
In Chithirapuram yard, digging of land and levelling the place was expected to cost Rs.11 lakhs. Now it has turned out to cost Rs.11 crores. In the tender process, certain companies are granted exemptions frequently, the Congress alleged.
Pinarayi's argument is that the state has never seen a 50,000 Cr. development plan. And the Congress is against it and therefore has come out with baseless allegations against KIIFB. KIIFB's records can be investigated any time especially by the CAG. A person like Vinod Rai is involved in the KIIFB committee. It shows the KIIFB functions without any hanky panky. These allegations come from the fact that KIIFB is able to generate so much money, and the opposition doesn't like that.
This argument deserves attention certainly, but in the appointment of KM Abraham as CEO of the KIIFB the CPM has shown disregard for the rules relevant uptil now. Why Abraham was the blue eyed boy of the CPM is a different story. The rules went for a toss as a newspaper headline said. The Kerala Service Rules (KSR) states that when a retired top government employee is re employed by the government certain norms have to be followed. Abraham, defending his appointment, says he was appointed on a contract with the government. This could be correct. But it speaks volumes for his appointment.
Some people think nothing about how Kerala faces the financial crisis. The LDF government has announced an out of budget financial scheme to implement development of the state. It is, as always, surrounded by shoddy deals and corruption of a sort, it seems. There is no end to it.
Truth to tell neither Pinarayi nor Ramesh Chennithala can be believed fully. They play a devious game. It was very evident in the Sabarimala issue, in the Maradu case, in the dispute between the Orthodox and Jacobites over their churches. The BJP was no different. All three acted differently perhaps knowing that the people are bound to face very serious complications. The Maradu case, how they played with nature is an example. How they tried to cajole people to vote for their parties, how the educated people of Kerala voters view them now is all history of its own. Suffice it to say the masses are becoming more knowledgeable of the political leaders’ hypocrisy.
The facts and views expressed in the article are those of the writer.