Audit, social audit system in MNREGA to be strengthened

New Delhi: Admitting lack of specific data on or detailed assessment of "misappropriations" in MNREGA scheme, the government on Wednesday said it was strengthening the social audit system and sought cooperation from state governments to tackle corruption in the flagship programme.

"As of now there is no detailed assessment of misappropriations. The functioning of the scheme is so large that it is tough to put it at one per cent or two per cent," Rural Development Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told reporters here.

He said there is scope in the MNREGA Act to have both social audit and audit in the scheme and that the Central government has now begun consulting the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on introducing audit rules so that the state governments can work in tandem.

Deshmukh was addressing a press meet on the occasion of completion of five years of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

Asked about the issue of threat to an award-winning social auditor from certain persons, also raised by Prime Minister Manomhan Singh at the event, the minister said he would take up the matter on a serious note with the Uttar Pradesh government.

"We are aware of the matter. A social auditor cannot be threatened in this way. We will take up the issue of his protection with the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister," Deshmukh said.

He asserted that the Centre could not act directly on allegations and wrongdoing concerning the scheme as it was for state governments to do so but added that the Centre was monitoring it well.

On the issue of corruption in the scheme and measures the government was adopting to tackle it, Rural Development secretary B K Sinha said the bio-metric system, when introduced, should be a good mechanism to curb corruption.

He said the non-recurring cost for this project would be Rs 2,500 crore and it would be introduced as a pilot project and subsequently carried out in a phase-wise manner across all districts by the next financial year.

To a question if the ministry would seek additional funds for the scheme this financial year, Deshmukh said Rs 64,000 crore has been sought for the purpose as compared its present allocation of Rs 40,000 crore.

He said the government was looking at expanding the reach of MNREGA and improve the co-relation between farmers and farm labourers so that the latter is not left jobless at any time of the year.