The Comptroller and Auditor-General has found serious lapses in implementation of the UPA’s flagship programme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
In its second performance audit submitted to Parliament on Tuesday, the CAG said employment under the MGNREGS declined, funds were being diverted for other use and possible irregularities related to wage payments occurred.
The audit covers implementation of the scheme from April 2007 to March 2012 and was done on a request from the Rural Development Ministry. Records of 3,848 panchayats in 28 States and four Union Territories were checked.
The supreme auditor has found a significant decline in the per rural household employment generation, from 54 days in 2009-10 to 43 days in 2011-12.
“State governments have been lax in implementation. The implementation on the ground has to be done by them. The fault therefore lies with the States. It is unfair to blame the Central government for this,” a highly placed source in the CAG office told The Hindu .
“If the implementation is not done by the State governments, the Centre is quite helpless.” The audit reveals irregularities in payment of wages. In eight States, there were cases of suspected misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs. 128.23 crore as no vouchers supporting payments were available on record. The report notes, “The poorest of the poor were not fully able to exercise their rights under the MGNREGS.” Bihar, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh had 46 per cent of the rural poor in India, however, they accounted for only 20 per cent of the total funds released under the scheme.
There were widespread instances of non-payment and delayed payment of wages in 23 States. In 11 States and one Union Territory, proper annual plans have not been prepared. And several big States including Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh had not even “formulated rules for carrying out the provisions of the Act, as of March 2012.”
The CAG has noted “significant inefficiencies in the implementation of annual plans. Of the total works amounting to Rs. 1,26,961 crore approved in the annual plans, only 30 per cent was completed during the audit period.”
The scheme aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing 100 days of wage-employment in a financial year to a household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. However, the number of days declined to 43, says the report.
The report includes a beneficiary survey that seeks to gauge the impact of the scheme on the lives of people. According to the survey, 31 per cent of the beneficiaries felt that the MGNREGS did not bring a “significant change to their lives.”
However, there are variations in these figures across the States. In smaller States/ UTs including Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, over 90 per cent of the beneficiaries felt that the scheme helped them in “a significant way.”
In 8 States, misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs. 128.23 crore is suspected
Bihar, Maharashtra and U.P., with 46% of rural poor in India, account for just 20% of funds