Government audits conducted in the last four years across the country have identified misappropriation to the tune of at least Rs 935 crore under various schemes of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
Experts suggest that the actual amount of misappropriation may be ‘three or four times’ the identified amount. Social Audit Units (SAUs) which are under the rural development departments across the country have found identified financial misappropriation, the Indian Express reported.
Though the data is in the public domain, it is difficult to access, the newspaper said. It obtained the data from the fiscal year (FY) 2017-18 to FY 2020-21 from the Management Information System (MIS) of the rural development ministry.
Only about Rs 12.5 crore of this amount — 1.34% — has been recovered so far, the data show. SAU audits have been carried out in 2.65 lakh Gram Panchayats (GPs) in the states and Union Territories of the country at least once over the last four years, since the data began to be uploaded in 2017-18.
The Centre released Rs 55,659.93 crore for MGNREGA in 2017-18, and the amount has since risen every year to reach Rs 1,10,355.27 crore in 2020-21. Total expenditure on the scheme has risen from Rs 63,649.48 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 1,11,405.3 crore in 2020-21.
Andhra Pradesh has 12,982 GPs, and 31,795 social audits were conducted and reports uploaded. Total misappropriated funds amounted to Rs 239.31 crore; recovery was Rs 4.48 crore (1.88%). Penalties of Rs 14.74 lakh were levied, and 10,454 employees were warned/censured. A total 551 employees have been suspended and 180 employees have been dismissed. Three FIRs have been filed.
Karnataka has seen misappropriation of Rs 173.6 crore in its 6,027 GPs; only Rs 1.48 crore (0.68 %) has been recovered. A total 22, 948 audit reports were submitted. Karnataka has registered no FIRs and suspended none of its employees, even though the services of two employees have been terminated.
In Bihar, Rs 12.34 crore was misappropriated; recoveries stood at Rs 1,593. In West Bengal, Rs 2.45 crore was misappropriated; Rs 14,802 was recovered.
In Gujarat, only Rs 6,749 was misappropriated, nothing of which was recovered.
Jharkhand filed the most FIRs — 14 out of the 38 filed across the country over the last four years. Two employees were suspended, and the services of 31 were terminated. However, of the Rs 51.29 crore misappropriated, only Rs 1.39 crore (2.72%) has been recovered.
Rajasthan, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Ladakh, Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Puducherry, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu reported zero misappropriation.