The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government on Tuesday gave approval to increase the spending limit of legislators for the Local Area Development (LAD) fund, from Rs 2 crore to Rs 3 crore per constituency, from this financial year.
While the announcement of the hike had already been made by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar in his Budget speech in March 2020, the state government had not been releasing funds over the previous Rs 2 crore-limit since the outbreak, in view of the massive shortfall in revenue.
“We gradually released the amount of Rs 2 crore to legislators in the last ten months. As we reached the milestone of Rs 2 crore, we took the decision of granting an additional Rs 1 crore each to the legislators, considering the overall improved financial situation of the government. Funding for the important programmes of the government is being given priority, so the proposal has been approved due to the overall improvement in finances,” said a senior official.
The LAD fund is given to MLAs and MLCs for carrying out small development works, such as the constructions of school buildings, anganwadis, gymnasiums, bus stops and roads, in their respective constituencies.
The official further said that if the funds remain unspent by the end of March in a particular financial year, legislators can utilise them in the subsequent year. “After allocating funds for the legislators, if the funds remain unspent in that financial year, then the unspent funds are carried forward to the next year, till the term of the legislators. It also means that they can utilise it anytime during their tenure,” the official added.
While making the announcement, Pawar had said that although the LAD fund was being increased by one crore, legislators would have to spend 10 per cent or Rs 30 lakh of the total funds on repair and maintenance of government buildings. “So, Rs 30 lakh will be kept aside for the same,” the official said.
Anticipating the sharp decline in its revenue due to the Covid-induced lockdown, the state government in May 2020 had ordered all departments to withhold tenders for new purchases and approvals for new development works, barring the procurement of infrastructure and items required for combating the pandemic.
Only five departments – public health, medical education, food and drug administration, food and civil supplies and relief and rehabilitation – were authorised to commit to new spending, which was also restricted to only purchases for combating the outbreak.