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Social Audits in MGNREGS

  • 27 Nov 2023
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Social Audits, Amrit Sarovar, Jaldoot App

For Mains: Implementation issues with the MGNREGA, Government Policies & Interventions, Issues Relating to Development

Source: TH

Why in News?

Recent data from the Management Information System (MIS) on Social Audit, maintained by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), sheds light on the progress and challenges of the social audit in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

What is the Progress of Social Audits in MGNREGS?

  • According to the data from the MIS on Social Audit, Out of the 34 States and Union Territories, only 6 have surpassed the 50% mark in completing social audits of works done under MGNREGS in gram panchayats.
  • Kerala emerges as the frontrunner, achieving 100% coverage of gram panchayats in social audits, showcasing a comprehensive and inclusive approach.
    • Apart from Kerala, five other states have surpassed the 50% mark in social audit coverage, namely Bihar (64.4%), Gujarat (58.8%), Jammu and Kashmir (64.1%), Odisha (60.42%), and Uttar Pradesh (54.97%).
  • Only three States have covered 40% or more villages Telangana (40.5%), Himachal Pradesh (45.32%) and Andhra Pradesh (49.7%).
  • Other than Telangana, among the poll-bound States, the numbers are really low — Madhya Pradesh (1.73%), Mizoram (17.5%) Chhattisgarh (25.06%), and Rajasthan (34.74%).

What is a Social Audit?

  • About:
    • Social audit is a process of reviewing official records and determining whether state reported expenditures reflect the actual money spent on the ground.
    • Social audit is the inbuilt anti-corruption mechanism in the MGNREGA Act, 2005.
      • It involves quality checks of infrastructure created under the MGNREGA, financial misappropriation in wages, and checking for any procedural deviations.
  • Objectives:
    • Aimed at empowering local communities, social audits enable citizens to scrutinize and assess the efficiency and effectiveness of government initiatives.
  • Legal Framework:
    • In the context of MGNREGS, Section 17 of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) mandates the gram sabha to monitor the execution of works, providing a legal basis for social audits.
    • The Audit of Scheme Rules, 2011, also known as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Audit of Schemes Rules, 2011, were developed by the Ministry of Rural Development in collaboration with the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.
      • These rules outline the procedures for social audits and the duties of various entities, including the Social Audit Unit (SAU), state government, and field workers of MGNREGA, to be followed nationwide.
    • Social audit units operate independently of the implementing authorities, ensuring an unbiased evaluation of the programs.
    • To ensure the autonomy of Social Audit Units, they are entitled to funds equivalent to 0.5% of the MGNREGA expenditure incurred by the state in the previous year.
    • In cases where states fail to conduct regular social audits, the Centre has the authority to withhold funds allocated under MGNREGS.
  • Challenges in Implementation:
    • Limited awareness of the legal framework for social audits, especially among local communities, can impede their active involvement in the process.
    • Limited financial resources for Social Audit Units can compromise their ability to carry out thorough and effective audits, restricting the scope of their activities.
    • The intrusion of political influence can hinder the impartiality of social audits, impacting the authenticity and objectivity of the evaluation process.
    • Lack of cooperation and coordination of the implementing authorities and the social audit units.
    • Lack of follow-up and action on the findings and recommendations of the social audit reports.
    • Lack of protection and support for the social auditors and the whistle-blowers who face threats and harassment from the vested interests.

What is MGNREGS?

  • About:
    • The MGNREGS is one of the largest work guarantee programmes in the world launched in 2005 by the Ministry of Rural Development.
      • The MGNREGA is the legal framework that enables the implementation of the scheme and gives the right to work to the rural poor.
    • Under MGNREGS a total of 11.37 Crore households availed employment and a total of 289.24 crore person-days employment has been generated (till 15th December 2022).
  • Objectives:
    • The scheme aims to provide at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to rural households whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
    • Strengthening the livelihood resource base of the poor.
    • Proactively ensuring social inclusion.
    • Strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).
  • Achievements of MGNREGA:
    • GIS-Based Planning of Gram Panchayats (GPs):
      • The Ministry has initiated an integrated holistic planning of the Gram Panchayats based on watershed development principles (ridge to valley approach) using the Geographical information system (GIS).
        • As of December 2022, plans for 2,62,654 GPs have been designed in a saturation mode for three years of planning.
    • National Electronic Fund Management System (NeFMS)/ DBT:
      • Under the MGNREGA, 99% of wage seekers are receiving their wages directly into their Bank/Post Office accounts.
      • It is a big step towards transparency and timely release of wages.
    • SECURE:
      • SECURE is an online application designed and developed specially for the estimate preparation and approval for MNNREGA works.
    • Skill Development:
      • The project “UNNATI'' intends to upgrade the skill-base of the MGNREGA workers, and thereby improve their livelihoods, so that they can move from the current partial employment to full employment.
        • As of December 2022, 27,383 candidates have been trained.
  • New Initiatives for the implementation of the programme:

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Q. Among the following who are eligible to benefit from the “Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act”? (2011)

(a) Adult members of only the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe households
(b) Adult members of below poverty line (BPL) households
(c) Adult members of households of all backward communities
(d) Adult members of any household

Ans: (d)

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