Bhilwara: United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government's flagship programme, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is again in the eye of storm.
The first social audit of the NREGA programme in Rajasthan has thrown up some embarrassing revelations. Irregularities of about Rs 1.3 crore were reportedly found out in Bhilwara, which is the constituency of Union Rural Development Minister CP Joshi, who is in charge of the programme across the country.
Many villagers at a public hearing in Bhilwara spoke out on how the officials were cheating them.
"They made a job card in my name for 13 days and took the money while I had not even put an application for work since I am now 70-year old," says an old man Sayeed, who is the resident of Titori village in Bhilwara.
"Someone came and took money in my name and I didn't even know I was enrolled for work under NREGA," says another Titori resident Gita.
The audit by non-government organisations found that in some cases substandard materials were used, JCB machines were used instead of labourers while job cards were not issued to ensure that the right people were paid
As many as 28 FIRS were registered against government officials and the NGOs who conducted the social audit say it could go a long way in checking corruption in NREGA.
"It's crucial to the programme since this is a strong way to bring about transparency," says social activist Nikhil Dey.
The response has encouraged the Union Rural Ministry to ask other states to carry out the audit as it is now done in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.
"The act already provides for a social audit which the panchayats have to carry out but its not being conducted as effectively as the one here," says CP Joshi.
The Ministry is banking on 1800 social auditors trained at the Bhilwara social audit to do the same job in other states.