Thiruvananthapuram: A day after a CAG report pointing out the lapses of the state government in collecting crores of revenue arrears was tabled in the Assembly, Kerala Finance Minister K N Balagopal on Friday said the pending amount was accumulated not just after the present Left government came to power but it has piled up over the past decades.
The FM, who is under attack from the opposition parties over the budgetary decision to levy cess on fuel prices, also defended the decision saying such a measure was taken for the general interest of the state.
Reacting to a query on the latest CAG report, tabled in the Assembly blaming the state government for its failure to collect revenue arrears, Balagopal said legal measures would be launched to collect the pending arrears in certain sectors.
Compared to the year 2021, the state's own revenue income has increased by Rs 26,000 crore and it was not a small achievement, he said, adding that it could achieve the remarkable target by fighting several adverse factors including the COVID-19 situation, two consecutive floods, Nipah outbreak and so on.
When asked about the remarks regarding the pending arrears, the FM said the CAG report would go to the Public Accounts Committee and its details would be available then.
"The pending arrears (mentioned in the CAG report) accumulated not just after the present Left government came to power. It tells about the arrears pending over these years. There are arrears pending for over 50 years," he told reporters here.
Asked about the government's reluctance to rollback the tax proposals and the cess imposed on the sales of fuel, Balagopal said the tax revisions and hikes were announced not for their personal interest but for the general welfare of people and the state.
"It is inevitable in the present financial situation of the state. The Centre has been squeezing the state with their financial policies. In the union budget, they cut short even the allocations for the MGNREGA and food security. But, here we did not make any decrease in the allocations of any of the significant schemes despite all these financial issues," he added.
The FM also urged the opposition and the media to self-introspect whether the budget proposals deserve such harsh criticism.
The Combined Compliance Audit Report (Revenue Sector), Govt. of Kerala for the period 2019-21 of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India was tabled in the state Assembly on Thursday.
In the report, the CAG pointed out that the Kerala government has failed to collect revenue arrears of Rs 7,100.32 crore, which was outstanding for more than five years and stressed the need for urgent intervention to clear it.
The government departments should create a database of outstanding arrears for effective monitoring and follow-up for recovery of arrears, it recommended.
"The arrears of Rs 7,100.32 crore were pending for more than five years in 12 Departments and includes those of Excise Department from 1952," it said. PTI