Vinay Kumar

NEW DELHI: The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India has criticised dilution of the scheme under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act due to poor record maintenance, delayed payment of wages and non-payment of unemployment allowance.

Enacted by the United Progressive Alliance government the NREG scheme was launched to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year.

In its performance audit report on implementation of the NREGA the CAG noted that of the Rs.12,074 crore funds, including the States’ share of Rs.813 crore up to March 2007, the State governments could utilise Rs.8,823 crore.

It held that the NREGA being a Central law, the Ministry of Rural Development should accept the overall responsibility for coordinating and monitoring its administration and ensuring economical, efficient and effective utilisation of funds provided by the Union government. The Act initially came into force in 200 districts from February 2, 2006.

According to the Ministry, 3.81 crore households had registered under the Act. Of these, 2.12 crore households had demanded employment and 2.10 crore households were provided employment during 2006-07. The report noted that there were several cases of delayed payment of wages, for which no compensation was paid.

“While there was inadequate assurance that all demands for work were being captured, there were also instances of non-payment of unemployment allowance which became due to employment-seekers even where the records indicated that employment was not provided within 15 days from date of demand. However, no one was fined for violation of the Act,” the report observed.

It noted that poor record maintenance further diluted the purpose of the Act, systems for financial management and tracking were deficient, as monthly squaring and reconciliation of accounts at different levels to maintain financial accountability and transparency were not being done.