The Congress-JDS coalition government in Karnataka has caught up in another controversy as social audits into NREGA accounts has revealed a Rs.410 crore scam, reported Deccan Herald.
As per reports, an audit into the NREGA accounts across 467 gram panchayats in the state has revealed severe leakages in payments worth Rs 37.68 crore. In addition to that, irregularities worth Rs 373 crore has been stalled in more than 92,000 cases due to various objections filed during the social audit.
Interestingly, the highest number of irregularities have been discovered in Channapatna and Kanakapura taluks of Ramanagara district. Channapatna is represented by Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy in the state assembly while Minister of Water resources DK Shivakumar is elected from Kanakapura constituency.
Reportedly, the social audit has unearthed irregularities like improper payments for work completed, wrong work cards, payments for work not done, payments exceeding quantum of work, payments exceeding the bill amount and double payments, etc. In the last five years, irregular payments alone worth Rs 113 crore have been flagged by the auditors.
Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) Minister Krishna Byre Gowda responding to allegations said, “all works which are taken up under NREGA have to be geo-tagged and photographs uploaded to verify that the work was actually done. But when you’re doing such a large and diverse programme where millions of works are going on, there may be a few (leaks) here and there. While we don’t want leaks or misuse, we also don’t want to stifle the system.”
However, PDOs have complained that the social audit process is unfair, in that it is one-sided. RDPR principal secretary L K Atheeq said that the authorities will look into the irregularities and punish those involved in cases where payment was done without any work and those where payment was made for less work.
The Karnataka government had earlier extended the NREGA scheme to 150 days, as opposed to 100 as several districts in the state are facing drought. The government had promised all the labourers of providing a payment of Rs 236 per day.
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 provides livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of work in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. They are engaged in the creation of various rural assets, such as school compounds, trenches, farm ponds and so on.
Civil society organisations, nongovernmental organisations, political representatives, civil servants and workers of the rural areas collectively organise social audits to prevent corruption under the NREGA.