Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday said his Ministry would make available to States the details of audit by the Comptroller and Auditor-General into rural development expenditure.
“There was some ambiguity on this. I do not want any ambiguity whatsoever. All rural development expenditures of the Central government will be subjected to CAG audit in all States. I have had three rounds of discussion with the CAG. We will be announcing the details next week. It is essential that when we are spending Rs.1,00,000 crore all over the country, people have every right to demand accountability and transparency,” he said.
The Minister said that his philosophy is: “Be liberal in funding but be ruthless in demanding accountability and transparency.”
Mr. Ramesh told journalists that he had also asked the CAG to conduct performance audit in 11 States, including Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh — irrespective of the party in power. In addition, the CAG would appoint special Accountant-Generals for auditing rural development expenditure.
The Ministry would sanction about Rs.600 crore to Assam for laying 1,000 km rural roads for connecting habitations having a population of 500 or more. Rural roads laid under the PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna) in Assam so far had covered habitations having a population of 1,000 or more.
“One of the good success stories of Assam over the past 10 years has been to bring connectivity to all habitations,” the Minister said, congratulating the State government on the “outstanding achievement” of laying 13,000 km of rural roads over the past 10 years.
After a meeting with Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and other Ministers, Mr. Ramesh said his Ministry would sanction about Rs.812 crore for constructing 400 bridges on all PMGSY roads in Assam.
The Union government would look into the feasibility of supporting a World Bank or an Asian Development Bank-assisted separate rural roads project for Assam. Mr. Ramesh also promised to look into the issue of funds for maintenance of rural roads and for roads washed away during floods.
Rural job scheme
On implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Mr. Ramesh urged Assam to focus on irrigation, afforestation, land and water management and restoration of water bodies. So far the emphasis was on rural roads, which was perhaps necessary. He, however, said the biggest problem in implementation of this flagship programme throughout the country was delayed payment to the beneficiaries. There was need to accelerate implementation of the MGNREGS in Assam.