Patna, March 13: The Bihar government today said it has launched a special drive to verify cards issued to 1.27 crore beneficiaries under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to recover “ghost payments” made following detection of around 20 lakh “duplicate” job cards in the scheme.
“Out of 1.27 crore job cards issued in the state, only 40 to 45 lakh job cards were being actually used. About 20 lakh job cards so far have been found to have been duplicated and even triplicated,” rural development minister Nitish Mishra said today on the floor of the Assembly.
Mishra was replying to questions on MNREGA asked by leader of Opposition Abdul Bari Siddiqui and BJP member Sanjay Sarogi. He referred to a case in Saran district where a probe revealed that in just one panchayat, fraudulent payment to the tune of Rs 3.84 lakh had been made. Mishra asserted that the mukhiya had already been sent to jail while proceedings had been initiated against six junior officials.
The issue of corruption in the UPA’s flagship rural scheme has been raised in the past as well. Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh and even Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had commented on rampant corruption in the implementation of MNREGA in the state. Ramesh had quoted Nitish to say that MNREGA money was being used to purchase SUVs of mukhiyas.
In the Assembly today, minister Mishra pointed out that an internal audit had revealed over 17,000 duplicate job cards in Muzaffarpur and over 40,000 in Darbhanga. “Payment under MNREGA was being done through the post office. Now we are striving to open a bank account of the beneficiaries and making payment directly into it. During opening of the bank account, all job cards will be verified,” Mishra said, stressing that his department had already recovered Rs 70 lakh of MNREGA money and taken action against more than 300 persons. “We will stop ghost payments by the end of May,” the minister pledged.
Last November, the government had ordered an internal audit of MNREGA expenditure following a report by a Delhi-based NGO that 73 per cent of the funds of Rs 8,189 crore given between 2006 and 2012 had been embezzled. By January this year, the government claimed it had dismissed 251 officials for corruption in MNREGA schemes and also filed cases against 280 more.
The modus operandi of corruption is issuance of duplicate, sometimes even original job cards, to relatively prosperous persons. These are kept with touts for fake entries on a commission of 10 per cent with a commitment that in case any probe is ordered, they would give a false statement that they had worked on the project. The second modus operandi is making inflated and fake job entries in the muster rolls of genuine MNREGA workers without their knowledge. The third method is non-payment of partial payment to genuine workers.