Concerns have been raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India about the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) transferring responsibilities inside the institution for the appraisal and approval of entirely government-funded projects.
It has been observed that this delegation of power implies a lack of separation of project execution, assessment, and approval functions, denying the ability for independent inspection. According to the auditor, highway construction agencies have failed to scrutinize land schedules and land acquisition plans, as well as to match them with actual project alignment, resulting in the acquisition of more land than was required for projects.
According to the CAG’s report, the NHAI Act, 1956 requires at least two non-government professionals with knowledge or experience in financial management, transportation planning, or any other relevant subject to be nominated as part-time members of the NHAI board. This requirement was also emphasised by Niti Aayog at an inter-ministerial meeting on the draught Cabinet note on the Bharatmala programme. Non-government professionals, on the other hand, were not appointed to the NHAI Board. The CAG has advised the government to evaluate the project assessment and approval procedure, including power delegation, to ensure proper scrutiny, selection, and approval of all modalities of project construction at competent levels.