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CAG pulls up Rlys for ‘dressing up’ finances

September 24, 2020 06:18 AM


CAG pulls up Rlys for ‘dressing up’ finances
Anisha Dutta

New Delhi : The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has pulled up Indian Railways for “window dressing” its finances to present its operating ratio and working expenses in a better light during the financial year 2018-19 by including advance freight payments in its calculations.

The operating ratio measures expenditure as a proportion of revenue or the amount spent on every 100 rupees earned by the state-owned transporter. A higher ratio indicates poorer ability to generate a surplus.

In December last year, the government auditor said Indian Railways recorded its worst operating ratio in 10 years at 98.44% and its revenue surplus decreased by more than 66% to ₹1,665.61 crore in 2017-18 from ₹4,913 crore in 2016-17 .

Against the target of 92.8% in the Budget Estimates, the operating ratio of Indian Railways was 97.29% in 2018-19. This meant that railways spent ₹97.29 to earn ₹100, CAG noted in a report on railways presented in Parliament on Wednesday.

“However, if advance freight of ₹8,351 crore from NTPC and CONCOR was not included in the earnings of 2018-19, OR would have been 101.77% instead of 97.29%. The Net Surplus in 2018-19 was ₹3,773.86 crore. IR would have ended with a negative balance of ₹7,334.85 crore but for receipt of advance freight and less appropriation to DRF and Pension Fund. Ministry of Railways (MoR) resorted to window dressing for presenting the working expenses and operating ratio in a better light,” the CAG report on the transporter’s finances noted. NTPC is the national thermal power producer and CONCOR stands for Container Corporation of India Limited. DRF is short for Depreciation Reserve Fund.

During 2018-19, Indian Railways generated total internal earnings of ₹1,90,507 crore against the targeted internal earnings of ₹2,01,090 crore, the report said. “The Railways could not achieve even revised estimate target of ₹1,97,214 crore. The total internal earnings also included freight advance of ₹8,351 crore received from NTPC and CONCOR for transportation of goods in 2019-20,” it added.

The national auditor also raised concern over delays in projects over the past five years. “Projects were to be completed during 2015-20. However, due to inefficiency of Zonal Railways and weak monitoring at the Railway Board level, the progress of projects was slow,” it said.

CAG also raised doubts over railways’ utilisation of its extra budgetary resources (EBR) for financing project that started from 2015-16 onward.

HT reached out to the ministry for a comment but received no response till the time of going to press

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