Ramesh insists on non-negotiable reforms in MGNREGA audit

New Delhi: Insisting on "non-negotiable reforms" in social audit for MGNREGA, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday said "tough decisions" will have to be taken if states do not implement measures initiated to bring transparency in the UPA`s flagship job scheme.

Hailing the recent notification of MGNREGA Audit of Schemes Rules, 2011 by the Centre, he said that "very clear and concrete" set of rules have now been set up and it should be ensured that they do not remain only rules.

"It is sad to say that only Andhra Pradesh has taken audit process very seriously…Time has come to make it very clear that we want the rules to be implemented," Ramesh said chairing the national workshop on Social Audit of MGNREGA here.

He felt that states must be insisted upon to have a transaction-based Market Information System (MIS) on the lines of Andhra Pradesh so that the movement of funds can be tracked. "It is a basic prerequisite for the social audit to be successful," he said.

There are certain non-negotiable reforms like this, and the Centre will have to take tough decisions if states do not implement them, the minister said.

He said while transaction-based MIS tracks the fund at block level, the Janta Information System (JIS), which has been implemented in Rajasthan, does it at the village level.

"We should ensure the centrality of transaction based on MIS at block level and JIS at village level."

He said that unless the two measures are implemented in all the states, the social audit of the scheme cannot be successful.

NAC member Aruna Roy said that the passing of the social audit rules was an ethical victory for the government and emphasised the need to make every MGNREGA worker aware of the rules for effective implementation of the scheme.

"Social audit is not only about corruption but also about entitlements," she said, adding that the exercise will also make people aware of their rights under the scheme.

Secretary, Rural Development, B K Sinha said that the MGNREGA is currently in its second phase, which is the phase of consolidation after its first phase of expansion.

Hailing Andhra Pradesh`s success in social audit, Sinha said that other states should also follow it. Sinha said since the audit rules have now been notified, states should set up the Directorates of Social Audit without any delay.

The workshop also took up issues like challenges of timely payment to MGNREGA workers and ensuring transparency.

According to the new social audit rules, the states must conduct social audits of the works taken under the scheme in every gram panchayat at least once in six months.

A summary of such findings of social audits conducted during a financial year shall be submitted by the state government to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the central government. The CAG report will then be placed before both Houses of Parliament.

The rules stipulate that the state government shall be responsible for taking follow up action on the findings of the social audit.