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Rural jobs social audit confirms fraud
10 January 2011
The Hindu

New Delhi: Activists who held a social audit of development works carried out under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in Todgarh Panchayat of Ajmer district have endorsed the earlier findings of embezzlement in the panchayat. The district administration, in an inquiry held recently, had detected misappropriation of funds amounting to Rs.56 lakh in Todgarh panchayat. Curiously, it was here that Bikam Chan Jain nearly lost both his legs when they were severed using a blunt weapon by a group of assailants. His crime?

He had sought information on the spending under MGNREGS in the panchayat and the relatives of the ex-sarpanch in the area allegedly attacked him. Mr. Jain is now undergoing treatment in Mumbai. Significantly, a special audit last year had uncovered corruption amounting to Rs. 1.3 crore in MGNREGS works in the neighbouring panchayat, Malaton ki Vair.

"The scale of fraud being unearthed in these two neighbouring panchayats and the violent attack on information seekers indicate the prevalence of rampant corruption. We demand an inquiry of the entire block," said Nikhil Dey of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). Irregularities in muster rolls, fake names, and works done in places other than where sanctioned were also uncovered by the social audit team which read out its findings at a gram sabha in Todgarh.

The social audit was attended by members of MKSS and Suchana Evam Rozgar Adhikar Abhiyan while 14 trainees from the IAS Academy, Mussoorie, joined them as observers.

Chairperson of the social audit committee Tej Singh said though water conservation works had been sanctioned for the past five years, only Rs. 24 lakh for one year had been shown as expenditure by the panchayat.

However, the social audit team found that only Rs 1 lakh of work had actually been done. There was a discrepancy in the expenditure painted on the wall of the panchayat office and in the actual records.

"The Todgarh social audit is also significant as it brought out the weaknesses of the social process done by the social audit committee without any technical support or outside intervention ever since the Central Government amended the social audit clause 13 b in the MGNREG Act," Mr. Dey pointed out.

Perhaps due to the opposition to social audits by the sarpanch bodies in Rajasthan, when Mr. Tej Singh got up to read the findings of the social audit team, the Additional CEO of Ajmer Zila Parishad signalled to the Additional Tehsildar to read out the findings of the district administration's report instead. Thereafter the entire proceedings were conducted by the government officers rather than the social audit team members, Mr. Dey said.

Keywords: social audit, anti-corruption, service delivery, India,
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