The Nitish Kumar Government is in for some serious head-scratching with the audit report by the Examiner of Local Accounts revealing glaring irregularities in the functioning of the State’s Panchayati apparatus.

It said “government laxity” was the chief factor leading to a poor internal control structure and sloppy accounting system.

“It is difficult to put a firm figure on misappropriation,” said Principal Accountant-General (Audit) A. K. Singh while disclosing that six of the 12 Zila Parishads surveyed revealed discrepancies amounting to Rs.10.38 crore.

“Out of 48 Panchayat Samitis and 196 Gram Panchayats covered in the audit, not even a single body had prepared its annual accounts,” said the Examiner of Local Accounts, D. Jaishankar, while recording that the position of management of finance and accounts in PRIs in Bihar “was far from satisfactory”.

“An urgent need of the hour is the creation of a data base on finances of PRIs which has not even been started despite repeated recommendations by the 10th, 11th and 12th Finance Commissions,” said Mr. Singh.

The report revealed that this was despite an amount of Rs.5.72 crore drawn for the purpose in March 2005, which was still languishing in Civil Deposit.

Mr. Jaishankar said that apart from non-availability of several records, the other worrying factor was that all the PRIs were maintaining “several cash books in place of one” and that the “transactions compiled in several cash books were not compiled, which resulted in the non-depiction of the actual position of finance”.

The auditors’ report revealed widespread proliferation of fake Muster Roll Sheets during implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), while many of the sheets were not stitched and numbered.

Moreover, the sheets were usually certified only by the junior engineers (who were the executing agents) and not by any elected member of the Gram Panchayat in whose area the works were being executed.

In a violation of Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY) norms, funds totalling Rs.18.68 crore meant specifically for the benefit of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were diverted to general schemes, thus depriving the SC/ST community who are entitled to 22.5 per cent of SGRY benefits.

Moreover, the report indicated that non-completion of 81 workshop buildings in the Zila Parishads surveyed for SC/ST beneficiaries under SGRY grant resulted in a denial of self-employment opportunities for the community.

The auditors also pointed out that of the food grains to be issued at a subsidised rate as part of the SGRY scheme wage component, a stock of 45345.29 quintals with PDS dealers was still lying in 13 Panchayat Samitis.

Moreover, there was an anticipated wastage of Rs.5.67 crore on double issue rate for lack of timely utilisation of grain for distribution under SGRY works.

Mr. Singh said “a huge lack of skilled manpower” was another major impediment afflicting the progress of PRIs.