Karnataka

MNREGA funds go to children and the dead

The audit found that nearly 37% of the ₹85 lakh sanctioned under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act was siphoned off.

The audit found that nearly 37% of the ₹85 lakh sanctioned under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act was siphoned off.   | Photo Credit: ARUN KULKARNI;ARUN KULKARNI - ARUN KULKARNI

Directorate of Social Audit finds such beneficiaries were reported, on paper, to have participated in small rural works

Some time earlier this year, Devanur village, barely 60 km from Hubballi, saw works for nearly ₹85 lakh sanctioned under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act. While the work was done, a closer inspection of files showed that nearly 37% of the money was siphoned off, much of it either in the name of children or the deceased, who were reported, on paper, to have participated in small rural works.

In the financial year 2016-17, the Directorate of Social Audit found at least ₹359 crore of “suspicious payments”, including in Devanur village, during their check of the scheme. This not only represents nearly 13% of the over ₹2,650 crore of payments checked by the department last fiscal, but is also a steep rise from the around 3% irregularities recorded in the past two financial years.

The audit revealed that much of the money was siphoned off by listing the names of the deceased and of schoolchildren. Other modes of theft included listing adults who did not participate in the works and government employees; even direct billing of works that had not been undertaken; and double billing,

Take for instance in Bennur village of Koppal district, nearly 91% of the siphoned off money was through over-billing of works or fictitious works that existed only on paper. In Madlapura Gram Panchayat in Raichur district, nearly three-fourths of the money swindled was through projects that were not under MNREGA but had been previously completed.

Little action

However, with there being no provision for recovering the money from Panchayat Development Officers (PDOs), officials are instead attempting to recover it from labour leaders, who are responsible for enrolling workers. “A labour leader is appointed for every 40 workers enrolled, and has to maintain attendance. They are being held responsible, and will have to pay up the misappropriated money,” said Sharana Basavaraj, project director for Raichur district where the largest amount of irregularities were detected. He added that the zilla panchayat has been asked to book cases against PDOs and frame charges.

So far, no action has been taken in Raichur or in the rest of the State.

Venkat Reddy, the in-charge head of the Social Audit Directorate, said unlike neighbouring Andhra Pradesh or Telangana, Karnataka does not have a vigilance committee that takes action against government officials. “In just four months, the two States have recovered ₹50 crore in all, and lodged many FIRs through the vigilance committee. Karnataka has failed to do that because there is no vigilance committee,” he said.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 5:37:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/mnrega-funds-go-to-children-and-the-dead/article22291393.ece

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