New Delhi, Dec 18: There is an "institutionalised exaggeration" of figures about children benefiting from Mid Day Meal (MDM) scheme and irregularities like inflated costs and fudging of data prevail, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has found.
The enrollment of children in schools providing mid-day meals is showing a "consistent" decline indicating that more and more people are seeking better education and not just food, the auditor said in a report that was tabled in the Parliament today.
"The mechanism in place for assimilating data on the number of children availing MDM was seriously compromised. The percentage of actual children availing MDM as gathered from various sources was consistently lower than that furnished by the states to the (HRD) Ministry for claiming cost of food grains and cooking costs," the CAG said in its report.
It added that the audit "evidenced an institutional exaggeration of figures" regarding students taking meals, irregular diversion or theft of food grains, inflated transportation costs and fudging of data pertaining to supplying of food grains.
"All these point to widespread leakages leading to losses and misappropriations in the scheme," the CAG added in its report while blaming "inadequate" monitoring by the Centre and states.
The Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry should get data submitted examined through independent checks and a system of surprise checks should be introduced to check malpractices, it recommended.
In its report the CAG also said that from 14.69 crore in 2009-10, the number of children enrolled in schools covered by the MDM scheme has come down to 13.87 crore. In contrast, the enrolment of children in private schools witnessed a jump from 4.02 crore to 5.53 crore during the same period.
"Clear trends were noticed, which demonstrated that the meal served its purpose only when the expectation of the parents, with respect to good education for their wards, was fulfilled," the CAG said in its report.
The auditor's observation assumes significance as the MDM scheme was launched two decades back with an aim to increase enrollment and retention of children in schools.