State finds e-solution to curb misuse of MGNREGS funds

Department to introduce electronic system of bill generation

Stung by allegations of large-scale irregularities in implementing the Centre’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the State government has decided to adopt technology, hoping that it will prevent the misuse of funds at the field-level under the scheme.

Gram Panchayat presidents and PDOs will face criminal charges if they fail to clear pending bills.

The Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RD&PR) will soon introduce an electronic system of generation and clearance of bills using Global Positioning System (GPS).

The new system, which is likely to be ushered, in about two months, will completely do away with the existing manual system and try to put a full stop to various kinds of manipulations.

According to MGNREGS Director Munish Moudgil, the department will soon be distributing GPS-enabled cell phones to as many as 2,000 engineers who are responsible for supervision, generation and clearance of bills under the scheme, at the gram panchayat (GP) level.

The engineers will take a picture of a completed MGNREGS work and forward it to the server, which verifies all details, including longitude and latitude of the work, against the estimate and generates a bill. The payment for the bills, for both the labour and the supplier, will be done electronically using digital signatures of panchayat development officer (PDOs) and the panchayat president, he explained.

First of its kind

The new system, dubbed as the first of its kind, is expected to end the widespread misuse of the scheme. Currently, the entire process of bill preparation is done manually – from taking measurement of the completed work to generation of the bill to making payment. There is huge scope for manipulation in every step of this process.

Currently, the department has pending claims of about Rs 300 crore from variousGPs across the State. These claims pertain to the 2009-10 and 2010-11 fiscals. The department is apprehensive that a majority of these claims would be bogus and hence, it has delayed the payment. It has ordered a verification of these claims.

This apart, the department has in a recent letter warned all 5,628 gram panchayat presidents and PDOs that criminal cases will be slapped against them under Section 25 of MGNREGS Act if they fail to clear the pending bills within a fortnight. Bills to the tune of about Rs 140 crore, including Rs 100 crore of 2011-12 fiscal, have been pending to be cleared by the gram panchayats.

The panchayat bodies, covering all three tyres of administration—zilla panchayats, taluks panchayats and gram panchayats, are sitting on MGNREGS funds to the tune of about Rs 155 crore, he said.

Interestingly, the department is clueless as to where exactly the money is stuck. It has, therefore, taken up verification of the bank accounts of all the panchayats to ascertain their balance. So far, bank accounts of as many as 3,000 gram panchayats have been verified. It is estimated that as many as 2,000 gram panchayats are sitting on the funds, without clearing the bills.

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