Rural job guarantee scheme draws CAG flak

New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) The UPA’s flagship rural job guarantee scheme has drawn flak from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on various counts, including diversion of funds, impermissible works undertaken to the tune of about Rs.2,252 crore, and projects worth Rs.4,070 crore left incomplete.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh blamed a “complicated” process of fund allocation for many ills plaguing the scheme.

“We have created a complicated system of funds release. I have sympathy with many states. Frankly, these are imposed on us by the finance ministry,” he told reporters here.

Ramesh said that there was a need to “rethink” on these issues. “I have taken this up on multiple occasions.”

The audit undertaken by the CAG said that employment generated by the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) declined from 283.59 crore persondays in 2009-10 to 216.34 crore persondays in 2011-12. The completion of works also saw a significant decline in 2011-12.

“There were deficiencies in the approval and release of funds by the ministry. Numerous instances were noticed in which the ministry released grants in excess of demand and in breach of its own conditionalities,” says the CAG report tabled in parliament Tuesday.

“In fact, in 2010-11, the ministry relaxed all conditionalities (except furnishing utilisation certificate) associated with the release of funds. No basis for this decision was provided,” it said, and noted that Rs.1,960.45 crore were released in March 2011 alone, without exercising proper financial controls.

The CAG asked the government to take “decisive steps” to ensure proper implementation of the scheme.

Analysing the implementation of programme, the report said that in districts of 25 states and Union Territories, 1,02,100 “inadmissible works” amounting to Rs. 2,252.43 crore were undertaken.

These inadmissible works included construction of kutcha (dirt) roads, cement concrete roads, raised platforms for cattle and other animals and bathing ghats.

The minister said that the CAG audit, which had been sought by the rural development ministry itself, was only up to 2011-12 and a lot of things have improved since March 2012.

Ramesh said: “I don’t have any problems with this report. We will take action on the discrepancies pointed out by the report.” He added, “A lot of things have happened after the CAG’s audit.”

The minister said that the CAG has also pointed out positive aspects such as 90 percent beneficiaries of MGNREGS are small or marginal farmers, 80 percent beneficiaries are Dalits, tribals and backward castes and 63 percent say distress migration has reduced.

“For me, this is a survey which gives positive indicators also,” he said.

The CAG report also noted that widespread instances of non-payment and delayed payment of wages have been noticed in 23 states.

It said that the per rural household employment declined from 54 days in 2009-10 to 43 days in 2011-12. There was also a substantial decline in the proportion of works completed in 2011-12.

The report said that an analysis of releases made to states for the period April 2007 to March 2012 and poverty data showed that Bihar, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh had 46 percent of the rural poor in India but accounted for only 20 percent of the total funds released under the scheme.

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