|November 25, 2013 at 10:20 am #4886|
How many bank accounts should a panchayat operate? One, two or may be three bank accounts?
It seems that six bank accounts were not sufficient for the Corlim panchayat and it recently opened its seventh bank account and that too, in a private bank at Marcela in Ponda taluka.
Questions are now being asked whether the panchayat was within its right to maintain accounts at distant places when nationalised banks have branches in Corlim village. And when answers were sought under the RTI ACT, an applicant was bluntly asked to refer to the Panchayat Raj Act and interpret it for himself.
“The Goa Panchayat Raj Act clearly states that amounts at the credit of the Panchayat Fund should be kept in any scheduled bank or a cooperative bank in the panchayat area or the neighbouring panchayat area,” said RTI activist and Corlim villager Baptist Pereira.
“Corlim and its neighbouring panchayat areas like Old Goa and Carambolim have several nationalised banks. Hence, opening accounts at distant places like Marcela does not arise unless it is done with mala fide intentions,” alleged Pereira.
What has further aggravated the situation, according to Pereira, is the transfer of about Rs 42 lakh, including a one-time transfer of Rs 10 lakh, from the account of the nationalised bank in Corlim to the account of the private bank in Marcela, which has been further converted into 11 fixed deposit schemes.
“If the powers of the panchayat are limited to spending a maximum of Rs 5 lakh for undertaking development projects, how can Rs 10 lakh and above be transferred and converted into fixed deposit in one single transaction without the approval of the Directorate of Panchayats or the BDO,” asked Pereira.
When Pereira sought information under the RTI Act regarding opening and closing of bank accounts by panchayats and also transfer of huge amounts to another bank, the reply he got was, “Information sought by you is not available in writing in this office, however you may refer the Panchayat Raj Act-1994 as published and interpret yourself.”
Puzzled by the reply, Pereira said, “If such replies are received under the RTI Act directing to refer books of laws and Acts, the illiterate will be deprived of the most powerful tool, the RTI Act.”
“If there are no laws framed by the Directorate of Panchayats to open and close accounts, then panchayats could well open accounts in any banks in any part of the world, including Swiss banks, to earn highest rate of interest,” Pereira added.
Unperturbed over the allegations, Corlim Deputy Sarpanch Victor Pereira said panchayats have the prerogative to manage its financial resources in the way it thinks is best.
“The panchayat was not earning any interest on the money deposited in one nationalised bank in Corlim and the bank was enjoying the benefits at the cost of the panchayat fund,” informed the deputy sarpanch.
“The same bank had provided a bus stand in Old Goa, while doing nothing for Corlim. The services provided by the bank were below par and our staff had to wait for hours when making deposits. The panchayat decided to divert the money to the bank in Marcela due to its efficiency and better services. Besides, they assured to try and give something back in return for the village.”
On the opening of account in distant Marcela when there are nationalised banks in Corlim, Victor Pereira shot back, “The Corlim panchayat had opened an account in a bank in Merces much before the current panchayat body took over. Why were these questions not asked then? Panchayats have the right to open accounts in any banks within the State.”
On the transfer of Rs 10 lakh in a single transaction, Pereira saw nothing wrong in it. “We will earn good interest on the fixed deposits and the revenue earned will be useful in undertaking developmental projects in the village,” he opined.
Source/Reference: Herald, “Corlim Panchayat’s seven bank accounts raise many eyebrows“