Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has said states would not be allowed to ignore the findings of the social audits notified recently by his ministry on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).
Speaking to state representatives at a workshop on the social audit rules, he said as these are a subordinate legislation, they may be ignored by many states. He said tough decisions would be taken to ensure this did not happen.
He said he would be consulting the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) tomorrow on possible solutions. "The time has come to ask what we can do when states don't follow social audit rules," he said.
He also said a transaction-based management information system (MIS) had to be endured in every state. "Without it, you won't be able to track the flow of funds," he said, adding that a social audit, too, would not have much meaning without one.
Andhra Pradesh, said Ramesh, was the only state which had a transaction-based MIS. In this system, every transaction from the application for work to the payment slip is uploaded on the MIS, so that data cannot be fudged.
He also proposed another kind of MIS at the village or habitation level, on the lines of one demonstrated by workers of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan movement in Rajasthan.
Called the Janata Information System or JIS, it provides information on the card holder, the wages paid, the days he's worked, the material used in the work, and the unit cost of the material and other details of the project itself, Ramesh explained.
He said states should ensure the centrality of a transaction-based MIS and a hamlet-based JIS.
"If we do these two, then the regime of social audit would be useful," he said, adding these should be part of a set of non-negotiables on NREGS.
The social audit programme envisaged in the rules promise an auditing authority in every state which reports directly to the CAG at the centre, besides a scale of audit infrastructure not seen before.
In Andhra Pradesh, the only state with a working directorate of social audit for the past five years (social audit has been started in Rajasthan and Kerala subsequently), about 80,000 gram panchayat auditors, paid on a daily basis, have been hired.
So have 1,000 block and district-level auditors, hired on a year's contract.
The setting up of social audit directorates would require at least a year and states may take longer. The ministry is likely to insist on having social audits in select districts, both high spending and low spending, to ensure the process gets started in all.