Buckling under accusations of large-scale diversion of funds and violence associated with the ‘food for work’ program, the Central government has warned states that it will not release funds unless allegations are probed in a timely manner.
The National Employment Guarantee Scheme has been under the spotlight after an activist was killed by local level officials for demanding the accounts related to the implementation of the scheme. The government spends nearly 10% of its planned expenditure and 4% of its total budget on the scheme, arguably the largest welfare scheme in the world.
“Under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), the State Government has to implement the scheme and it is expected that they would institute remedial measures,” the Centre said in a statement today.
Under the Act, the Centre, if it finds prima-facie evidence of wrongdoing in the implementation of the scheme, can request the State government for a enquiry report within 2 weeks.
“If the Central Government directs the State Government for taking steps for effective implementation of the provisions of the Act and the State Government do not respond by prompt remedial measures as well as corresponding action.., then the Central Government may.. order for stoppage of release of funds to the Scheme. The liability for funding the Scheme or payment of unemployment allowance during the period shall be with the State Government,” it warned.
Once the report is received, a screening committee constituted at the Ministry level will examine the report and in case, it is not found satisfactory, get
the charges investigated by the CBI or by a team of officers of the Ministry in case of non-criminal lapse.
Under the new guidelines, in the case of investigation of the case by the CBI, the state Governments should transfer the accused officers out of the areas of operation of the Scheme. In case the State Government does not comply, the release of funds will be stopped.
If enquired by a team of central officers, the funds will be stopped till the State Government remedies the system.