The government rejected the persistent demand of the Opposition in the Assembly on Saturday to constitute a House Committee to inquire into allegations of irregularities in the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).

In a marathon three-hour-long reply on the NREGS which caused an uproar in the Assembly for two days earlier, Minister for Rural Development Vatti Vasant Kumar said the social audit reports of the NREGS works, containing village-wise details of the completed works and irregularities detected were posted on the website (www.socialaudit.ap.gov.in).

He told Leader of the Opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu (TDP) that he had sent him data. Quoting the social audit reports, he said a sum of Rs. 57 crore had been swindled so far, 389 functionaries dismissed from service, 560 criminal cases booked and Rs. 7 crore recovered.

Members of Opposition parties, other than the TDP, highlighted the “scandals indulged in by Congress leaders and officials” while implementing the NREGS but did seek a House Committee probe.

Mr. Naidu cited several instances of corruption and challenged the Minister to accompany him to any village in Mahabubnagar district to find out the truth himself. He alleged that the State government had violated the Central Act under which the scheme was introduced, by framing its own guidelines to implement the works.

While the works were to be “demand-driven” and to be decided at gram sabhas, orders went from the Minister and others in Hyderabad deciding the works and their value. Orders were issued even in the names of ex-legislators and former ministers. The Minister, he said, had allotted works worth Rs. 1,650 crore recently to his native West Godavari district, including Rs. 26 crore to his own village.

Ombudsmen

Mr. Naidu grilled the Minister for non-appointment of ombudsmen to settle disputes relating to works, although a Central order came six months ago seeking this facility. The House sat till 4 p.m. to discuss the issue.