The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has flagged the “risk of data tampering” in the NRC for Assam, due to “improper” software development related to data capture and correction during the updation process of the citizenship document. A highly secure and reliable software was required to be developed for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) updation exercise, but during the audit, “lack of proper planning in this regard” came to the fore.
The updated final NRC, which validates bonafide Indian citizens of Assam, was released on August 31, 2019, with total 3,11,21,004 names included out of 3,30,27,661 applicants, though it is yet to be notified.
The CAG submitted a report for the year ended in 2020, on the last day of the winter session of the Assam Assembly on Saturday, which pointed out that 215 software utilities were added in a “haphazard manner” to the core software.
It was done “without following the due process of either software development or selection of vendor through eligibility assessment following a national tendering,” the report said.
“Haphazard development of software and utilities for NRC data capture and correction posed the risk of data tampering, without leaving any audit trail. The audit trail could have ensured accountability for the veracity of NRC data,” the CAG report said.
It maintained that the objective of preparing a valid error-free NRC has not been met despite entailing huge expenditure to the state exchequer.
According to the report, there have been irregularities in the utilisation of funds, including excess and inadmissible payment to vendors.
The CAG report on compliance audit of ‘logistical arrangements for NRC updation project in Assam’, recommended fixing responsibility on erring authorities for the financial irregularities and penal action against M/s Wipro Limited, the system integrator, for violating Minimum Wages Act.
The NRC was updated in Assam under the supervision of a Supreme Court bench.
The CAG report maintained that the objective of preparing a valid error-free NRC has not been met despite entailing huge expenditure to the state exchequer.
It noted that the initial project cost was estimated at Rs 288.18 crore when the NRC updation process had commenced in December 2014 and the deadline for completion was set for February 2015.
The final draft of the document was, however, published in August 2019 and the project cost escalated to Rs 1,602.66 crore (expenditure of Rs 1,579.78 crore was reported), the CAG report said.
It said that test check of records by audit has revealed “various irregularities in the utilisation of fund including excess and inadmissible payment to vendors”.
The report has recommended fixing of responsibility and action against the State Coordinator of National Registration (SCNR) for the excess, irregular and inadmissible payments.
The commissioner and secretary, political department, government of Assam, was designated as the SCNR to carry out the NRC updation exercise.
Mentioning non-adherence to Minimum Wages Act in payment to operators by M/s Wipro Limited as revealed during its audit, the CAG recommended penal action against the system integrator.
“Accountability of the SCNR, as principal employer, should also be fixed for not ensuring compliance with the MW Act,” the report added.
Assam, which had faced influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC which was first prepared in 1951.