Last month, Rahul Gandhi said in Sevagram, Maharashtra, that half the country’s MPs want their local area development (MPLAD) scheme to end. “If you ask MPs, at least 50 per cent of them will tell you put an end to this scheme because… the scheme does not give so much money that development work can be carried out in the entire parliamentary seat.”
Third-party audits since 2007-08, however, have found many MPs misusing funds under the scheme. Audit reports since 2010 have been accessed by The Indian Express through an RTI application.
The auditors studied 308 districts, taking around 50 sample projects in each, and found MPs, district authorities and implementation authorities violating the guidelines of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, nodal to the scheme.
Some MPs were found using projects created with these funds as their own assets. Some projects were found to have been encroached by local musclemen, including aides of the MPs. In some cases, inspecting teams found on the ground no work as mentioned in records. Assets created were often poorly maintained, and so were records, with the auditors noting in a number of reports that they couldn’t carry out their task because the records were missing.
From its launch in 1993 until last week, Rs 32,133 crore has been released under the scheme and state governments have spent Rs 29,019 crore on MPs’ recommendations. The current annual limit is Rs 5 crore in a Lok Sabha MP’s constituency or a Rajya Sabha MP’s state.
The audits have been done by NABARD Consultancy Services in 208 districts and by Agriculture Finance Corporation in 100. Ministry sources say their reports are being forwarded to district authorities.
Starting today, The Indian Express will go into the audit findings, district by district, beginning with Rae Bareli.
A public toilet fallen into disuse, medical vans auditors couldn’t find
District: Rae Bareli
Seats: Rae Bareli, parts of Amethi
Sitting MPs: Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi (Amethi)
A public toilet built here with Rs 6.99 lakh MPLAD funds was not being used for years, the audit team found, and it could not locate four mobile health vans bought with these funds either.
“The objective of the project was to construct a Sulabh Complex in the civil court, Rae Bareli, which was recommended by Congress president and MP Sonia Gandhi in 2008 for Rs. 6.99 lakh to provide a public bathroom. During the field visit it has been found that it is locked and appeared that it has not been used for a long time,” the audit report says. “Mobile health vans could not be seen… the vans were not made available during the field study.”
Since 1993, 14 Rajya Sabha MPs besides Lok Sabha MPs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi (parts of Amethi are in Rae Bareli district) have recommended 885 works worth Rs. 46.03 crore, 385 of these undertaken by trusts, societies and NGOs. Under the guidelines, at least 15 per cent of the works should be recommended for SCs, but only 21 works were in such areas, merely 2.4 per cent of the total.
Other findings include:
MAINTENANCE: “Maintenance was (being done) in 17 out of 50 sample works and there has been no arrangement for maintenance in the remaining 33 cases. Although the user agency is expected to provide for maintenance, it was observed that the assets were never maintained and… continued to erode and its utility was gradually diluted.”
DEADLINES: The guideline is that MPs recommend the works within 90 days of the start of the financial year. The audit found that this happened for only six of the 50 works. “It was general practice that recommendations of MPs were received throughout the year.” The norm for sanctioning a project after receiving the recommendation is 45 days; the average time in Rae Bareli was 89 days and in one case as long as 391 days. Again, a utilisation certificate is to be submitted within one month of completion of work, but “only in one case was (it) submitted within the time limit and in five cases (these are) still not submitted.”