Amid war of words between Akali Dal leaders and Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu over the spending of grants in various Centre’s urban development projects, the minister released a letter by Union Minister of Urban Development Venkaiah Naidu “expressing concern over the tardy execution of such projects in the state”.
Sidhu reiterated that the SAD-BJP government had diverted funds meant for such projects, including Smart City and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) Mission, to fund their populist schemes before the Assembly elections.
The letter, sent by Naidu a month after the Congress government assumed charge, was written after the Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, held a meeting with the state officials to review these projects on April 7.
Naidu wrote: “In the Smart Cities Mission, even though the special purpose vehicle (SPV) was formed long back in Ludhiana and project management consultant was appointed, no project has been tendered so far. In AMRUT mission, there has been long delay in detailed project report (DPR) preparation, issuance of tenders and start of works.”
The Union Minister further wrote “Not only the state’s share is not being released, but also the central share is inordinately delayed. Another issue is the shortage of staff, especially professionals, at the city/state level. We are funding the recruitment of experts/professionals in urban local bodies but positions have not been filled by the state government.”
Asserting that Naidu’s letter buttressed the claims he was making for the past several days, Sidhu demanded that SAD-BJP should now “tell people as to where they had spend this money.Naidu is a minister in the NDA government, of which SAD is also a part. Rather, the minister has gone two steps ahead of me in showing his concern over spending on these projects. The SAD-BJP should disclose where all the money has gone,” added Sidhu, while maintaining that large amounts of central grants have been blocked as the previous government didn’t submit utilisation certificate (UC) against the money it had received under these projects.