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CAG report picks holes in DBT performance audit

The audit observed that after conducting review of the beneficiaries in accordance with Punjab government’s instructions (June 2017), the DSSWCD (Department of Social Security and Women and Child Development) found 70,137 beneficiaries ineligible under four social security schemes pointing out recovery of Rs 162.35 crore.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh |
June 30, 2022 5:39:47 am
The report was tabled in Punjab Assembly during the ongoing budget session. (Representational)

“Excess financial assistance amounting to Rs 26.87 crore (out of Rs 27.20 crore) was recoverable (as of July 2021) in respect of 10,327 duplicate/ineligible beneficiaries weeded out by DSSWCD during the verification process conducted between May 2017 and November 2017 under three selected schemes in six test-checked districts,” the CAG report on the performance audit of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) has noted.

The report was tabled in Punjab Assembly during the ongoing budget session.

The audit observed that after conducting review of the beneficiaries in accordance with Punjab government’s instructions (June 2017), the DSSWCD (Department of Social Security and Women and Child Development) found 70,137 beneficiaries ineligible under four social security schemes pointing out recovery of Rs 162.35 crore.

“Of these, 68,307 ineligible beneficiaries with recoverable amount of Rs 157.17 crore pertained to three selected schemes. As of July 2021, out of the inadmissible amount of financial assistance of Rs 157.17 crore recoverable from 68,307 ineligible beneficiaries, only 0.52 per cent (i.e. Rs 0.81 crore) had been recovered, leaving Rs 156.36 crore still to be recovered. However, action taken, if any, against the officers/officials concerned and ineligible beneficiaries, as per notification (June 2017), was not intimated by the department till July 2021,” the CAG report noted.

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“In six test-checked districts, as of July 2021, out of the inadmissible amount of financial assistance of Rs 27.20 crore recoverable from 10,327 ineligible beneficiaries, only 1.21 per cent of the amount (i.e. Rs 0.33 crore) had been recovered, leaving Rs 26.87 crore still to be recovered under three selected social security schemes,” it added.

The report also observed, “No mechanism existed in DSSWCD for identification of deceased beneficiaries through the Registrar General of India to ensure discontinuance of financial assistance to the deceased. Requisite committees as initiated by the department for periodical review/identification of eligible/ineligible beneficiaries had not been formed at block levels, in spite of detecting substantial number of ineligible beneficiaries during a review conducted by the state government in June 2017.”

It noted, “In six test-checked districts, active beneficiaries were denied financial assistance of Rs 277.96 crore in three selected schemes during the period from April 2017 to July 2020. Besides, in 8,371 cases, the financial assistance was sanctioned with a delay up to 1,432 days beyond the prescribed time period of 30 days in four test-checked districts. Whereas, the delay in sending payment files to banks ranged up to 245 days from the sixth day of the succeeding month in which the financial assistance was due in six test-checked districts.”

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The report said, “Robust governance framework was lacking at state level to continuously monitor the readiness of schemes and programmes. No workshop, seminar, etc. to operationalise DBT was conducted either by the state DBT cell or DSSWCD. Besides, the departmental DBT cell/committee to ensure adoption of DBT framework in implementation of schemes, as per protocol on DBT in states, was not constituted in DSSWCD.”

DBT is a reform initiative launched by Centre on January 1, 2013, to “re-engineer the existing cumbersome delivery processes using modern information and communication technology (ICT) applications. The scope of DBT has expanded since inception to now include benefits under cash transfers; in-kind transfers; and other transfers”.

“There was a variation ranging between Rs 34 crore and Rs 4,555.58 crore in respect of the amount of cash transferred to the beneficiaries in three selected schemes viz Old Age Pension (OAP), Financial Assistance to Widows and Destitute Women (FAWDW) and Financial Assistance to Dependent Children (FADC) under the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) during the period 2017-2021 (up to July 2020), uploaded on the DBT portal and supplied by DSSWCD of Punjab government,” the report said, adding that due to lack of monitoring at Punjab Department of Governance Reforms and Public Grievances (DGRPG) level and coordination between state DBT cell and DSSWCD, the data in respect of amount of cash transferred to the beneficiaries under the selected social security schemes uploaded on the public domain could not be considered as authentic.”

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DBT aims to transform the manner in which social welfare schemes and programmes are implemented across the nation by using Aadhaar as a unique identifier as well as an individual beneficiary’s financial address. This marks a paradigm shift in the process of delivering benefits like wage payments, fuel subsidies, foodgrain subsidies, etc. directly into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries, removing leakages and enhancing financial inclusion.

After DBT implementation in Punjab in March 2017, coverage in number of schemes (cash transfer) under DBT increased from 51 schemes in 2017-18 to 94 up to July 2020.

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First published on: 30-06-2022 at 05:39:47 am

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