Jharkhand MGNREGA Audit: Missing Workers and Wage Diversion Detected
By: NH Desk
The government of Jharkhand, in its latest audit of the work done under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) - a key initiative that has guaranteed at least minimum income to rural households amid the pandemic’s economic devastation - found out hundreds of irregularities in the wage rolls leading to crores being misdirected.
The newest data comes from the published audit report that is accessable on the state labour ministry’s website.
Focusing on 36 work sites across six districts where “evidence” of use of machines was found instead of manual labour, the audit report noted the “low presence of workers in respect to those named in the muster rolls indicates a large number of use of machines and contractors, which are against the letter and spirit of the Act”.
Among the other “various serious issues”, the report listed “delay (in) payment, no attendance entered in muster roll at the worksite, no material supply despite payment made to the vendor, wage payment done without work”, and “work not found on ground despite shown completed”.
Some of the key findings of the audit include:
In Dumka district, an audit of 869 work sites found 774 people at work, although 7,712 were listed on the rolls.
In East Singhbhum, records listed 2,798 workers at 688 sites but only 1,253 were found to be at work.
In Dhanbad, 7,859 people were on the rolls for 1,348 schemes that were audited, but only 421 workers — a mere 5% — were found at the spot.
In Gumla, 731 people were on the rolls for 92 schemes that were audited, but only 20 workers – just 3% – were found at the sites.
According to the report’s introduction, the audit was conducted in two phases in October 2021 in 1,118 of the state’s 4,331 panchayats. In the 26,000 worksites that were audited, the accountants found only 40,629 workers from the 1.59 lakh whose names were on the rolls generated online.
Muster rolls are attendance sheets generated by the block development office after receiving work demands from designated panchayats. Under NREGA, the state government must provide demand-based 100 days of guaranteed rural employment to every household to create assets, such as ponds, cowsheds, playgrounds, check dams, toilets and roads. The contractor cannot use machines in the project to reduce manual labour opportunities.
The audit findings come when Chief Minister Hemant Soren has hailed NREGA as a “saviour” during the pandemic, with over 10 lakh migrant workers returning in the past two years. Under NREGA, the Jharkhand government claims to have employed 27.97 lakh individuals and spent Rs 2,637.60 crore in this financial year alone, till January 12.
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