Shield NREGA whistleblowers: Centre to stateshttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/shield-nrega-whistleblowers-centre-to-states/

Shield NREGA whistleblowers: Centre to states

The ministry has also asked states to ensure that an audit is conducted and appropriate steps are taken for ‘immediate financial recoveries’. And in case of erring officials,‘appropriate administrative and disciplinary proceedings’ should be initiated

In the wake of recent criticism by the Comptroller and Auditor General on the implementation of government’s job guarantee scheme,the Rural Development Ministry,in a memorandum dated May 14,has asked states to provide adequate security to whistleblowers/complainants and their families as well as audit teams.

The move also comes in the backdrop of reports of attacks on Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act social activists who acted as whistleblowers.

The circular said,“In the case of use of force,intimidation and other similar action coming to light against complainants or whistleblowers with regard to implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,the state government must immediately step in.” MGNREGA promises 100 days of job a year for each rural household at a prescribed minimum wage and has a current budgetary allocation of Rs 33,000 crore.

The state governments will also have to ensure prompt initiation of criminal proceedings against violence,coercion and registration of separate criminal cases if issues of misappropriation of funds or corruption are reported while closely monitoring the investigation of such cases,the circular stated.

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The ministry has also asked the states to ensure that a special audit is conducted and appropriate steps are taken based on its findings for “immediate financial recoveries”. In case of erring officials,“appropriate administrative and disciplinary proceedings” should be initiated. States have also been asked to establish special cells to look into all complaints on the scheme while also maintaining “transparency and accountability at grassroots level” through special social audits in village panchayats.

Last month,the CAG had pointed to various gaps in the scheme’s implementation,including those with financial implications.

The audit,from April 2007 to March 2012,had found that works undertaken for Rs 2,250 crore were not permissible under the scheme; 7,69,575 works amounting to Rs 4,070 crore were incomplete even after one to five years and expenditure of around Rs 6,500 crore on works did not result in creation of durable assets.