Audit, social audit system in MNREGA to be strengthened: Govt

New Delhi, Feb 2 (PTI) Admitting lack of specific data onor detailed assessment of "misappropriations" in MNREGAscheme, the government today said it was strengthening thesocial audit system and sought cooperation from stategovernments to tackle corruption in the flagship programme.

"As of now there is no detailed assessment ofmisappropriations. The functioning of the scheme is so largethat it is tough to put it at one per cent or two per cent,"Rural Development Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told reportershere.

He said there is scope in the MNREGA Act to have bothsocial audit and audit in the scheme and that the Centralgovernment has now begun consulting the Comptroller andAuditor General (CAG) on introducing audit rules so that thestate governments can work in tandem.

Deshmukh was addressing a press meet on the occasion ofcompletion of five years of Mahatma Gandhi National RuralEmployment Guarantee Act.

Asked about the issue of threat to an award-winningsocial auditor from certain persons, also raised by PrimeMinister Manomhan Singh at the event, the minister said hewould take up the matter on a serious note with the UttarPradesh government.

"We are aware of the matter. A social auditor cannot bethreatened in this way. We will take up the issue of hisprotection with the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister," Deshmukhsaid.

He asserted that the Centre could not act directly onallegations and wrongdoing concerning the scheme as it was forstate governments to do so but added that the Centre wasmonitoring it well.

On the issue of corruption in the scheme and measures thegovernment was adopting to tackle it, Rural Developmentsecretary B K Sinha said the bio-metric system, whenintroduced, should be a good mechanism to curb corruption.

He said the non-recurring cost for this project would beRs 2,500 crore and it would be introduced as a pilot projectand subsequently carried out in a phase-wise manner across alldistricts by the next financial year.

To a question if the ministry would seek additional fundsfor the scheme this financial year, Deshmukh said Rs 64,000crore has been sought for the purpose as compared its presentallocation of Rs 40,000 crore.

He said the government was looking at expanding the reachof MNREGA and improve the co-relation between farmers and farmlabourers so that the latter is not left jobless at any timeof the year.

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