The Tamil Nadu story concerning the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) appears to be no different from some other States, when it comes to irregularities in payment of wages, even though the amount involved is much less here.
The report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG), presented in the Assembly on Wednesday, talked of misappropriation of funds in three ways – inflating the number of workers, tampering with the muster rolls (MRs) and preparing bogus rolls. The performance audit of the CAG, submitted to Parliament last month, referred to cases of suspected misappropriation of funds in eight States to the tune of about Rs. 128 crore.
However, the relevant portion of the CAG report on Tamil Nadu reveals that the total amount involved in the given instances of misappropriation runs to about Rs. 13.6 lakh. The CAG studied the implementation of the scheme in eight districts of the State during 2007 and 2012. Barring one district, three rural blocks in each district were chosen.
In Perambalur, two blocks were taken into account for the study. In each block, 10 village panchayats were selected. The other seven districts were Coimbatore and Erode in the west; Pudukottai in the central; Sivaganga and Virudhunagar in the south and Tiruvallur and Vellore in the north.
A scrutiny of MRs in Alathur and Veppur blocks in Perambalur for 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 revealed that the Makkal Nala Paniyalargal (MNP) [people welfare workers], who were responsible for maintenance of the MRs, recorded inflated number of workers on roll daily and arrived at the daily wages per worker by dividing the value of work by the inflated number of beneficiaries. This had resulted in payment of lesser wages to workers. An amount of Rs. 92,000 was misappropriated by presidents of village panchayats and the MNPs. In the case of removal of silt from the Athiyur supply channel in Aduthurai, panchayat secretary/MNP concerned tampered the total number of person days of 761 by correcting it as 961.
In Vembi village panchayat of Thimiri block of Vellore district, 46 bogus MRs were prepared by the panchayat secretary concerned and president by forging the signatures of registered workers and a sum of Rs. 12.54 lakh was misappropriated. The report also recorded that in March 2011, the panchayat secretary was suspended for irregularities in the MRs for the silt removal work in Melpulam village tank.
As for other aspects of the implementation of the scheme, the CAG pointed out that in seven out of eight test-checked districts, District Perspective Plans were not prepared. In 2011-2012, 14.08 lakh households, representing 24 per cent of 58.16 lakh households who were given employment, could have the minimum guaranteed 100 days of work. Then, there were 76.49 lakh households registered under the scheme.
As the beneficiaries were paid wages in proportion to their out-turn, the prescribed minimum wages were not paid. The average wages paid were in the range of Rs. 72 to Rs. 87 against the prescribed minimum wages of Rs, 90-Rs.119 during 2009-2012, the CAG added.