The Comptroller and Auditor General pointed out lack of transparency in bar and beer-wine parlour licenses in Kerala during 2015-16 and found irregularities to the tune of Rs 70.74 crore. The Excise Department issued licences without collecting proper stamp duty, resulting in Rs 4.24 crore revenue loss, said the March 2016 year ended report tabled by Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac in the Assembly on Monday.
"In 2015-16, test checks of the records relating to excise duty, license fee receipts of 34 offices under the Excise Department showed non and short realisation of excise duty, license fee, interest penalty and other irregularities involving Rs 70.74 crore in 30 cases," it said.
The audit found that the systems in the Department to issue beer and wine parlour licenses, identification of persons liable to obtain licenses for spirituous preparations and enforcing provisions of the Abkari Act and Rules madethereunder "did not function transparently and efficiently".
The report also said the then state government also had not followed the instructions of the Centre for not issuing fresh licenses to liquor vendors along the National Highways. "The Government of India issued instructions to removeliquor shops along the National Highways and to ensure that no licenses are issued to liquor vendors along NH to prevent drunken driving and thereby reducing the occurrence of road accidents," it said.
"As on 31 March, 2016, there were four bar hotels and 182beer, wine parlours functioning along the NHs," it added. The audit noticed that during 2013-14 to 2015-16, 10 fresh bar and beer/wine parlour licenses were issued to hotels located along National Highways.
It also found that provisions of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008 were not complied with while according sanction for conversion of paddy and wetland in many cases during the period.
Two among the many such cases were irregularities foundin sanction accorded by the government for conversion of land for the project at Methran Kayal paddy fields to Kumarakam EchoTourism Village project and for the Medi City project at Kadamakkudy panchayat in Kochi.
Sanction for both these projects were however cancelled by the then Congress led UDF government itself. The report also found deficiencies in management of finance and inadmissible expenditure from the State Disaster Response Fund with expenditure impact of Rs 153.63 crore.
Disaster Management Plan at the state/district levels and by Local Authority were not prepared even after 10 years of enactment of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, it said.
Provisions of National Disaster Management Authority guidelines were not included in the municipal and panchayat building rules dealing with the construction of buildings inthe state, the report found.
"The Kerala government is continuing a relief-centric approach in disaster management activities rather than a pro-active prevention, mitigation and preparedness driven approach as envisaged in the Disaster Management Act," Amar Patnaik, Principal Accountant General (Economic and Revenue Sector Audit), Kerala said at Thiruvananthapuram in a press meet.