The Ministry of Rural Development clarifying on the CAG report, said that it is a part of the initiatives taken for a fair deal in the implementation of National Rural Employment Gurantee Act (NREGA) in the country. Also, as part of its system for monitoring and evaluation, the Ministry of Rural Development invited the CAG to conduct a concurrent audit of the implementation of the National Rural Guarantee Act ,2005 in 200 Phase I districts. The programme was launched on 2nd February 2006,and CAG were requested by The Ministry of Rural Development to conduct a performance audit in the very first year of its implementation 2006-07 to assess gaps in programme implementation by States so that effective remedial measures could be taken based on feedback, in the very first stage of the programme.
Under the NREGA, the responsibility for the implementation of the Act rests with the State Governments while the Centre has the responsibility for funding and monitoring and directing States so as to ensure that the Act is implemented in the spirit intended. The role of the Centre envisaged under the Act is to provide financial assistance, monitor and evaluate, promote dissemination of information, prepare annual report for the Parliament. If necessary, the Centre can issue directives to the State Governments and in consultation with the Comptroller and Auditor General of India prescribe appropriate arrangements for audit of the Accounts. The detailed observations of the CAG indicate the thoroughness of instructions of the Ministry on each possible parameter of programme implementation.
The Act makes the State Government guarantor of the employment offered. The Act is implemented primarily at the village level where all basic processes like the application for employment, selection and opening of works takes place, through the Gram Panchayat. Section 13 of the Act makes the Panchayats at the districts, intermediate and village level the principal authority for planning and implementation.
The report of the CAG has been shared with the States for corrective action. The Ministry of Rural Development has already initiated several reforms to address the concerns highlighted by the CAG report. The Ministry has mandated that workers' wages be paid through workers' accounts in Banks and post offices. 4.22 crore workers accounts have been opened in banks and post offices and the Ministry is closely monitoring the disbursement of wages through the accounts. Independent Grievance Redressal mechanism through Lok Adalat in consultation with National Legal Services Authority is under consideration. A national helpline (1800110707) has also been made operational.
Management Information System (MIS) has been strengthened and nodal officers in all States/UTs are deployed specifically to ensure authenticity and reliability of the data and to address other issues. 82.63 lakh Muster Rolls have been verified by respective States and placed on NREGA website www.nrega.nic.in 1.77 lakh social audits have been conducted.
Inadequacy of staff strength has been addressed by States and States have been advised to strengthen ICT activities upto Block level and utilize the central funds appropriated under administrative expenses. As a result of this, 2.24 lakh gram rozgar sahayaks, 5277 programme officers, 22588 technical staff, 6455 data entry operators and 5267 accountants have been engaged. 6.81 lakh PRIs functionaries, 5.51 lakh members of Vigilance and Monitoring Committee, 1.86 lakh gram rozgar sahayaks and others have been provided training for better implementation of legally mandated processes of NREGA. Central Government has also released funds to States/UTs to enable them to discharge their legally mandated responsibilities and ensuring quality, efficiency and transparency in the implementation of programme by providing professional and technical support.
An amount of INR 16,244.19 crores has been released up to October, 2008 making an availability of INR 21,204.94 crores to states for implementation of NREGA. Out of it, phase I districts have reported expenditure of INR 6880.07 crore, INR 3041.19 crore by Phase II districts and INR 2471.87 crore by the Phase III districts making an aggregate expenditure of INR 12393.13 crore.
The Act extends to the entire country and currently provides employment to 2.93 crore households generating 109.3 crore persondays of employment and reaching out to the marginalized group as STs/SCs and women who constitute 54% and 49% of the NREGA workforce respectively. 19.14 lakh works have been undertaken during the current year, of which 46% relate to water conservation.
The enhanced wage earnings by NREGA workers have lead to a strengthening of the livelihood resource base of the rural poor in India; in 2007-2008, more than 68% of funds utilised were in the form of wages paid to the labourers. In 2008-2009, 71% of the funds have been utilized in the form of wages.
Minimum wages have shown remarkable upward trend after the implementation of NREGA. It has risen in Maharashtra (from INR 47 to INR 72), Uttar Pradesh (from INR 58 to INR 100), Bihar (from INR 68 to INR 81), Karnataka (from INR 62 to INR 74), West Bengal (from INR 64 to INR 75), Madhya Pradesh (from INR 58 to INR 85), Himachal Pradesh (from INR 65 to INR 75), Nagaland (from INR 66 to INR 100), Jammu & Kashmir (from INR 45 to INR 70), and Chattisgarh (from INR 58 to INR 72.23).
Since NREGA has provided employment opportunities at the grassroot level in rural areas and also the minimum wages have been revised upward under the impact of NREGA, it has resulted into diminishing of distress migration from rural areas.
Independent appraisal through IITs, IIMs and other leading universities is being taken up. Accounts and audit rules are at the advance stage of finalization.
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