Rural Development Ministry issues clarification on CAG report

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New Delhi, Nov 4 (UNI) Noting the concerns expressed by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its latest report, the Union Rural Development ministry said it has already initiated reforms to address the concerns highlighted by the report.

Stating that it had shared the report with the states for corrective action, the ministry clarified that as part of its system of monitoring and evaluation, it had invited CAG to conduct a concurrent audit of the implementation of the National Rural Guarantee Act, 2005 in 200 Phase I districts.

The CAG had been requested to conduct a performance audit in the first year of implementation of NREGA in 2006-07 to assess gaps in programme implementation by states so that remedial measures could be taken based on feedback.

The programme was launched on February 2, 2006.

Under the Act, the responsibility for its implementation rests with the state governments while the Centre funds and monitors the scheme and directs states to ensure that the Act is implemented in the spirit intended. The Centre's role as envisaged under the Act is to provide financial assistance, monitor and evaluate, promote dissemination of information, prepare annual report for 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 ministry statement said.

The Act makes the state government guarantor of the employment offered and is implemented 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.

A total of Rs 16,244.19 crore has been released up to October 2008 making an availability of Rs. 21,204.94 crore to states for the implementation of NREGA. Of it, phase I districts have reported expenditure of Rs 6880.07 crore, Rs. 3041.19 crore by Phase II districts and Rs 2471.87 crore by the Phase III districts making an aggregate expenditure of Rs 12393.13 crore, the statement said.

Under the Act which extends to the entire country and provides employment to 2.93 crore households generating 109.3 crore persondays of employment, it reaches out to the marginalised group as STs/SCs and women who constitute 54 per cent and 49 per cent of the NREGA workforce respectively. About 19.14 lakh works have been undertaken during the current year, of which 46 per cent relate to water conservation.

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