Entrusted with the task of improving the social audit process in MGNREGA following reports of malpractices and corruption, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India has recommended to the States to set up directorates to train auditors from civil society.
The audit watchdog has recommended this as part of the new audit regime that is likely to scrutinise the flow of hundreds of crores of rupees spent on schemes under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
“Setting up of directorates to train auditors from civil society is one of the key recommendations made by the CAG to the Rural Development Ministry. Its suggestions have been moved to the Law Ministry and are most likely to be accepted,” a Ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
According to the CAG’s recommendations, a nominee of the government auditor would be present in social audits that gram sabhas would conduct twice a year.
“The CAG would also do an annual audit as part of its mandate. Coupled with the rigour of CAG’s accounting, the exercise would also bring in the new concept of social audit into mainstream,” the official explained.
Preparing a fresh audit regime was necessitated after the Ministry admitted to lacunae in the auditing process and that since MGNREGA was a scheme implemented by state governments independently, the presence of a directorate would certainly go a long way in making the entire process transparent.
The CAG is also learnt to have recommended that states adopt the social auditing process followed by Andhra Pradesh, as it has turned out to be highly successful due to its transparency and recovery mechanism.
National Advisory Council (NAC) member Aruna Roy welcomed the CAG’s recommendations and said, “Andhra Pradesh established an independent and autonomous body under the name of Society for Social Audit, Accountability and Transparency (SSAAT) which is responsible for facilitating conduct of social audit by the rural poor.”
“Till now, discrepancies/misappropriations to the tune of Rs. 88 crore have been unearthed and more than 4,600 officials have come under scrutiny in the state,” Ms. Roy said.
“The Ministry should not just fund the setting up of a directorate of social audit, but ensure that the directorate is independent and able to carry out its task in the manner that Andhra has done,” she said.
A social audit, as mandated by the Act, is one of the many mechanisms to check corruption in the scheme. However with the government surreptitiously introducing an amendment to section 13 of the Act, that prevented the participation of the independent parties, the social audit became an exercise controlled by the implementing agency.
In the financial year 2010-11, up to December, 4.10 crore households were provided employment and 145 crores person days were generated under MGNREGA.
The average wage earned has risen from Rs. 65 per person per day in 2006 to Rs. 100 by 2011.