Despite exhausting almost all funds, Odisha has not been able to provide 100 days employment as guaranteed by Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to more than 90% of the state's rural poor who demanded jobs under the scheme in the last five years, an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has revealed.
This speaks poorly on the implementation of scheme meant to alleviate poverty in a state that finds itself at the bottom of major states of the country on all development indices.
The CAG report, which was tabled on the last day of the budget session of Odisha Assembly on Saturday, said the state, which had a total fund availability of Rs. 5160.26 crore between 2007-08 and 2011-12, spent Rs. 4864.36 crore, or 94% of it.
In the same period, an average of 54.54 lakh persons registered for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), out of which 14.62 lakh or just 27% demanded work and a meagre 82,929 persons or 5.2 % were provided with 100 days of employment.
The CAG report said it clearly indicated poor response by registered workers in seeking employment under the scheme. "However, the reason for the poor response was not analysed by (the state panchayati raj) department," it said.
The CAG said the state government could not ensure effective, efficient and economical utilization of funds under the scheme that resulted in gross financial irregularities of diversion of scheme fund, misappropriation and tampering of muster rolls. "There were gross irregularities in the execution of works with poor maintenance of work records, use of machines in the execution of works, which made the scheme skeptical in providing the intended benefits," the report said.
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act enacted in September 2005 and renamed Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in October 2009 ensures livelihood security to the rural poor by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every registered household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
MGNREGA was launched in the state on February 2 2006 initially in 19 districts of the state. It was extended to five more districts on April 1, 2007 and to all 30 districts exactly a year later.