Admitting that irregularities took place in implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the government has finally put the funds siphoned off through corruption and malpractices at Rs 57.21 crore while the Opposition claimed that the amount was over Rs. 2,000 crore.

Making a suo motu statement in the Assembly on Thursday, Rural Development Minister V. Vasanth Kumar said the social audits conducted on the works done under the scheme since 2005 when it introduced, covering 1,597 mandals in 22 districts, revealed that Rs. 57.21 core was misappropriated as against Rs. 8,853 crore expenditure made.

On the other hand, R. Chandrasekhar Reddy (Telugu Desam), B. Satyanand Rao (Praja Rajyam) and J. Ranga Reddy (CPI-M) cited specific cases and contended that “conclusive proofs” were available with them which indicated that the sum swindled was over Rs. 2,000 crore, with Congress leaders and workers turning out to be the chief beneficiaries.

They regretted that only Rs. 3,750 crore out of the Rs. 6,000 crore earmarked for the scheme for this fiscal, was spent so far, leaving out Rs. 2,250 crore. “How ill you spend this balance amount within a week ?, they asked the Minister, saying that only one week was left for this fiscal. Mr. Vasanth Kumar said efforts were being made to exhaust the amount by clearing all the dues to the beneficiaries.

The government received 34,151 complaints of irregularities involving 8.87 lakh works completed. However, a sum of Rs. 6.9 crore was recovered from the guilty officials and 560 criminal cases booked against them while 3,389 functionaries were dismissed from service and 141 others suspended.