Drought-hit State fails to get NREGS funds

Union govt raises objections to accounting, poor work completion rate

At a time when most parts of the State are facing severe drought, implementation of the Centre’s flagship employment generation scheme – Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) – has hit a roadbl

ock.

The Union government has not released funds to the State for implementing the scheme in the current financial year, citing “inconsistency in financial accounting.”

Against the estimated target expenditure of Rs 1,000 crore for the financial year, the State has so far been able to spend a mere Rs 98.24 crore due to inordinate delay in release of funds, according to statistics in the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) department.

The Centre and the State have engaged in a fierce war of letters over the accounting system, work completion rate and pending bills in the last six months.

The latter has, however, stoutly contested the former’s charges. The panchayat bodies have, as a result, stopped implementing the scheme fearing non-clearance of bills.

As per the statistics, the State had a balance of Rs 350 crore and pending bills to the tune of Rs 650 crore at the beginning of 2012-13 financial year (actual available balance was Rs 300 crore after deducting the pending dues, as per the then accounting system at the Centre). Hence, the State sought money for clearing both the pending dues and implementing the scheme in the current year.

Objections raised

But, instead of releasing the funds, the Centre, in its letter dated April 2, 2012, raised several objections on the way the scheme was being implemented in the State.

It raised queries relating to poor work completion rate, delay in adopting electronic fund transfer system, inconsistency in financial accounting and not regularising works carried out in the previous years. However, it has not found any irregularities in usage of funds by the State, as per the records.

The State government disagreed with all these charges: Karnataka ranks ninth in the country in work completion rate (57 per cent ), it is among a few states to take steps to introduce electronic fund transfer at gram panchayat level, accounting system was changed at the Central level in April (deduction of pending dues of the previous years was done away while calculating the available balance) and third party inspection of works done during 2009-10 fiscal is still on and hence, some works have not been regularised.

And the stalemate between the two sides continued on these issues till August. While releasing Rs 700 crore on August 13, the Centre said more money will be given only after the State addresses all the issues.

The money was utilised to clear dues to the tune of Rs 551.29 crore (inspection of projects worth Rs 100 crore is still on).

The balance money of about Rs 300 crore that was with the State was actually stuck with panchayat bodies and the government has initiated the process of retrieving the money.

The government, therefore, was literally left with no money to spend for the current year. Karnataka is the only state in the country to implement the scheme completely at the panchayat level.

Though there is no irregularity in utilisation of funds anywhere and despite complying with all the rules under the scheme, the Centre has been delaying the release of funds.

A majority of states, including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, have failed to comply with the rules and yet have been given money, officials said.

When contacted, RDPR Minister K S Eshwarappa only said he will soon meet Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh to sort out the issue.

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