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Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

A massive amount of funds to the tune of lakhs of rupees have been allegedly misappropriated under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) at Juani Panchayat under Aul block in Kendrapada district.

As per reports, a development project for a local park near government girl's high school in the panchayat was earmarked with a budgetary allocation of Rs 16, 02, 806, surprisingly the land allocated for the project is now home to wild bushes and some trees but there is no sign of any park.

In another case from the same panchayat, a board installed on a land billed as a park boasts expenditure of over Rs 20 lakh but it also tells the same story.

But this is not the end of the saga.

The locals have also complained that funds worth lakhs of rupees have been embezzled on the pretext of renovation of the existing ponds in the region. However, in reality, very little work has been done to make the ponds usable again.

A bill amounting to Rs 11.51 lakh has been completely sanctioned for the renovation of a pond in the panchayat but the renovation work is halted halfway. Similarly, substandard work while renovating another pond has resulted in damages to the boundary wall following heavy rainfall. But surprisingly, around Rs 11, 43, 367 has been sanctioned as the billing amount.

"A boundary wall of 3-4 ft had been constructed around the pond for which they have sanctioned a whopping amount of Rs 14 lakh. Besides, other renovation works have also not been done. In another pond project, due to substandard work, the boundary wall has suffered severe damage due to rainfall, but the administration is yet to repair the structure," alleged Uttam Mallick, a local resident of Juani Panchayat

"Likewise, for constructing a playground near a temple in the GP, Rs 18 lakh has been billed from the total estimated budget of Rs 20 lakh. But, no work has been done to date apart from constructing the boundary wall," rued Mallick.

"We demand a strict action against the persons involved in the corruption," he said.

The locals of the region have voiced demands to conduct an inquiry of the corruption in MGNREGS and misappropriation of funds sanctioned under the Central Government scheme.

However, the Junior Engineer of Aul Block has refuted the allegations and stated that the bills have been sanctioned as per the work done under the scheme.

"The bills have been sanctioned as per the works done. No funds have been embezzled in these projects. If there are any allegations of corruption, truth will come out after inquiry, said Nihar Ranjan Parida, JE, Aul Block.

Meanwhile, Amrit Ruturaj, Kendrapara Collector said, "We have to calculate the estimated value of the projects, the work expenses, billing amount sanctioned and payment made to the workers and material purchase expenses before we take any action."

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