Bengal sets up social audit body for NREGS

Will help state evaluate 100 days’ job scheme
By
bappaditya paul 

Following repeated prods from the Centre, the West Bengal government has finally set up a separate social audit directorate to evaluate the 100 days job scheme in the state. NREGS logoThe Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, mandates that all states have a mechanism, independent of the implementing agency, to evaluate the NREGS work at regular intervals and make findings public. While several states had set up social audit units (SAU) for this or handed over the task to NGOs about a year ago, Bengal, until now, had not.

According to Mr Dibyendu Sarkar, the commissioner for NREGS in Bengal, the state government has in May created a separate social audit directorate with the commissioner of the panchayat and rural development department (P&RD) at the helm, as director.

“The organisation of the directorate will go down to the block level and they will submit findings to the state and the Centre independent of us, who are involved in the implementation of NREGS here,” Mr Sarkar said. He insisted that despite the P&RD commissioner being made the head of the new directorate, the evaluation will be impartial as “it is a separate mechanism”.

NREGS work in progressAt district level, the directorate will have a district social audit coordinator appointed on contract and he will function under the supervision of an additional district magistrate. The next level is the block, which will have a block social audit coordinator appointed on contract, and he will function under the supervision of a deputy magistrate.

“The block coordinator will select two social auditors from amongst villagers living outside the area where the audit is to be done. The two auditors will inspect work sites, talk to listed NREGS beneficiaries and find out if there was any wrongdoing. They will submit the findings to the block coordinator along with recommendations; the coordinator will forward the same and an action taken report to the district coordinator who will send it to the directorate,” Mr Sarkar said.

The social audit is to be conducted at least twice a year in a gram panchayat. The points to be covered include, denial of enrollment, delay or non issue of job cards, enrollment of bogus beneficiaries, work denial, non payment of wages, and checking if 33 per cent work was allotted to women workers.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 18 July 2013 under a different headline.)

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