Bihar Rural Development Minister Nitish Mishra on Monday ordered an inquiry into the allegations that nearly 73 per cent of the funds allotted for implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in 38 districts of Bihar, between 2006 and 2012, have been embezzled by authorities
"The department will inquire into the corruption and will conduct physical verification of all facts related to the scheme," Mishra said.
The Bihar government spent a total amount of Rs 8,189 crore during six years on NREGA, according to an audit conducted by the Delhi-based Centre for Environment and Food Security.
According to the CEFS report, Rs 5,977 crore of the allotted funds have been misappropriated by implementing authorities.
CEFS Director Parshuram Rai said the performance audit was conducted through a sample survey in 100 impoverished Dalit villages spread over ten districts in Bihar.
The field survey for this audit was carried out during January 2012 and a total of 2,500 households were interviewed for this purpose. Over 90 per cent of the sample households covered under this survey belong to Dalit and Mahadalit communities.
"Almost all the sample households covered under this survey are the living definition of extreme deprivation. They are landless and casual wage employment is their sole means of survival. In majority of these villages, NREGA is as good as non-existent for those who need it the most, but it has brought windfall gains for the implementing authorities," Parsuram said.
The CEFS performance audit suggests that nearly 73 per cent of the wage component of NREGA funds has been misappropriated by concerned authorities, primarily through fake job entries in official records. Only 27 per cent of the total wages has reached its intended beneficiaries.
"We have reasons to believe that all this is done in complicity with block-level authorities and in most cases, district authorities are also directly or indirectly party to this loot. Without the complicity of block and district authorities, an open loot of this magnitude is impossible," Parsuram said.
Parsuram said that CEFS found massive corruption and serious irregularities in the implementation of NREGA in Bihar. Very few villagers and labourers had seen the muster rolls, which were unavailable at worksites. In most cases, labourers are asked to sign on blank muster rolls.
"There is little transparency and accountability in the implementation of NREGA in Bihar," he said.
Six years after the implementation of the NREGA, the ruling United Progressive Alliance's flagship scheme, the Grievance Redressal Mechanism in Bihar is confined to official papers and circulars.
According to the CEFS report, the rural job scheme in Bihar has been virtually hijacked by implementing authorities.
"Payment of unemployment allowance is unheard of in Bihar. Our survey findings have revealed that there is participatory loot, plunder and pillage in Bihar's rural job scheme," Parsuram said.