A social audit conducted in a section of gram panchayats in the last four months of the last financial year has identified financial misappropriation and misappropriation of MGNREGS funds of at least Rs 22.39 crore in Kerala.
The Kerala Social Audit Society prepared audit reports in 296 out of 941 gram panchayats. The audit was conducted from December last year to March this year.
A source in the Kerala Social Audit Society said, “The actual level of looting of central funds will be much higher as the audit was conducted only in one part of the panchayat, even for only four months,” a source in the Kerala Social Audit Society said.
“Social audit, an important mandatory component of MGNREGS, could not be conducted in the majority of panchayats due to lack of rural resources, which examine the implementation of the project at the grassroots level,” the source said.
N Ramakantan, director, Kerala Social Audit Unit, said the results of the social audit have been communicated to the concerned collectors in all the districts. “It is the responsibility of collectors to recover money stolen in various ways,” he said.
According to sources, the funds were misused in various ways – mainly through fake entries in the master role. Those who did not work, those who are abroad, even the government employees of civic organizations were illegally paid.
In the process of creating wealth, counterfeit bills are deposited in pocket money. Local politicians, the parties that govern the panchayats, have been seen to create fake master roles during civic work adopted as part of wealth creation. Many works, which were not approved or approved under the project, have been found implemented. Instead of MGNREGS workers in the roll, many panchayats introduced contractors in collusion with local politicians, pocket money with fake master rolls.
Sources said the social audit has faced stiff resistance from both the CPI (M) and the Congress in many gram panchayats, which govern more than 90 per cent of the local bodies.
Ramakantan said social audits could not be conducted in all panchayats in Kerala as only one-third of local bodies could employ village resource persons. “The Union Ministry of Rural Development has to release funds for the Social Audit Society. In the last financial year, we were eligible to get Rs 22 crore, but we got only Rs 4 crore. Since funding from the Union Ministry has been delayed, we have not been able to recruit village resource persons in all the local bodies in the state, ”he said.
“Many wealthy people quit their jobs because they did not get paid. If social audit is not done, the center will not disclose the planned funds in the labor budget of the project. Therefore, to avoid a crisis, the Audit Society borrowed Rs 3 crore from the state government, ”Ramakantan said.