NREGA, the UPA’s flagship employment scheme for which the Government has spent over Rs. 90,000 crore, is facing complaints of fudging of attendance registers, prompting the Union Rural Development Ministry to constitute a Working Group to look into it.

The Ministry has already set up six such panels to deal with different issues relating to implementation of the programme like planning and execution of works, transparency and accountability and timely payment of wages which involves generally the issue of attendance.

“Of late, the Ministry has been receiving complaints of irregularities in daily attendance in muster rolls under the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA,” the ministry said in an order.

”...to contain these complaints and to take corrective action, it has been decided to constitute a Group to explore the possibilities of utilising ICT (communication and information technology), UID and biometrics as well as to create an innovative model,” it said.

The Group, to be headed by Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor of the Rural Development Ministry, has been directed to submit its report within three weeks.

A total of 1,230 complaints about irregularities in the implementation of NREGA have so far been brought to the Ministry’s notice since the scheme was first launched in 200 districts in February 2006.

These include complaints about fudging of important records including application registration record, employment register and muster rolls, sources said.

“A muster roll is essentially a labour attendance register. It is also used as a receipt to claim funds from the Programme Officer for the payment of wages. Its fudging could be a principal means for embezzlement of NREGA fund,” they said.

The government has so far spent over Rs. 90,260 crore in the implementation of the programme.

As per figures available with the Ministry, 2.10 crore households were provided employment under the Act during 2006—07, 3.39 crore during 2007—08, 4.51 crore during 2008—09 and 4.49 crore households in 2009—10 (up to January, 2010).

The average wage paid per person-days was Rs. 65 during 2006—07, Rs. 75 during 2007—08, Rs. 84 during 2008—09 and Rs. 88.56 during 2009—10.