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Anatomy of a Central Scheme: Understanding Accountability in MNREGA

November 9th, 2011 1 comment

Over the last couple of weeks, MNREGA is back in the spotlight. The Union Minister for Rural Development wrote to certain states regarding potential misuse of funds, and it was announced that rural development schemes are open to CAG audit.  In large schemes like MNREGA, officials at all levels of government – central, state, district, block, panchayat – have roles to play. This can make it difficult to locate the responsible authority in case implementation issues arise.

We list the responsibilities of different government agencies involved in implementation of MNREGA in the Table below.

Stakeholder Responsibilities
Gram Sabha (a) recommending works; (b) conducting social audits on implementation every six months; and (c) functioning as a forum for sharing information.
Gram Panchayat (a) planning works; (b) receiving applications for registration; (c) verifying applications; (d) registering households; (e) issuing job cards, (f) receiving applications for employment; (g) issuing detailed receipts; (h) allotting employment within 15 days of application; (i) executing works; (j) maintaining records; (k) convening Gram Sabha for social audit; and (l) monitoring implementation at the village level.
Intermediate Panchayat (a) consolidating Gram Panchayat plans into a Block plan and (b) monitoring and supervision at the block level.
Programme Officer (PO) (a) ensuring work to applicants within 15 days; (b) scrutinising Gram Panchayat annual development plans; (c) consolidating proposals into a Block plan and submitting to intermediate panchayat; (d) matching employment opportunities with demand for work at the Block level; (e) monitoring and supervising implementation; (f) disposing of complaints; (g) ensuring that Gram Sabha conducts social audits; and (h) payment of unemployment allowance.
District Panchayat (a) finalizing district plans and labour budget; and (b) monitoring and supervising at district level.
District Programme Coordinator (DPC) (a) ensuring that the scheme is implemented according to the Act at the district level; (b) information dissemination; (c) training; (d) consolidating block plans into a district plan; (e) ensuring that administrative and technical approval for projects are obtained on time; (f) release and utilisation of funds; (g) ensuring monitoring of works; (h) muster roll verifications; and (i) submitting monthly progress reports.
State Employment Guarantee Council (SEGC) (a) advising the state government on implementation; (b) evaluate and monitor implementation; (c) determining the “preferred works” to be taken up; (d) recommending the proposal of works to be submitted to the state government; and (e) prepare an annual report to the state legislature.
State Government (a) wide communication of the scheme; (b) setting up the SEGC; (c) setting up a State Employment Guarantee Fund; (d) ensuring that dedicated personnel are in place for implementation, including Gram Rozgar Sahayak, Programme Officer, and technical staff; (e) ensuring state share of the scheme budget is released on time; (f) delegation of financial and administrative powers to the DPC and Programme Officer if necessary; (g) training; (h) establishing a network of professional agencies for technical support and quality control; (i) regular review, monitoring, and evaluation of processes and outcomes; and (j) ensuring accountability and transparency.
Central Employment Guarantee Council (a) advising the central government on MNREGA matters; (b) monitoring and evaluating implementation of the Act; and (c) preparing annual reports on implementation and submitting them to Parliament.
Ministry of Rural Development (a) ensuring resource support to states and the CEGC; (b) regular review, monitoring, and evaluation of processes and outcomes;  (c) maintaining and operating the MIS to capture and track data on critical aspects of implementation; (d) assessing the utilization of resources through a set of performance indicators; (e) supporting innovations that help in improving processes towards the achievement of the objectives of the Act; (f) support the use of Information Technology (IT) to increase the efficiency and transparency of the processes as well as improve interface with the public;  and (g) ensuring that the implementation of NREGA at all levels is sought to be made transparent and accountable to the public..
Source: Operational Guidelines, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Ministry of Rural Development.


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How is the poverty line measured?

September 26th, 2011 No comments

Last week, the Planning Commission filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court updating the official poverty line to Rs 965 per month in urban areas and Rs 781 in rural areas. This works out to Rs 32 and and Rs 26 per day, respectively. The perceived inadequacy of these figures has led to widespread discussion and criticism in the media. In light of the controversy, it may be worth looking at where the numbers come from in the first place.

Two Measures of the BPL Population

The official poverty line is determined by the Planning Commission, on the basis of data provided by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). NSSO data is based on a survey of consumer expenditure which takes place every five years.  The most recent Planning Commission poverty estimates are for the year 2004-05.

In addition to Planning Commission efforts to determine the poverty line, the Ministry of Rural Development has conducted a BPL Census in 1992, 1997, 2002, and 2011 to identify poor households. The BPL Census is used to target families for assistance through various schemes of the central government. The 2011 BPL Census is being conducted along with a caste census, and is dubbed the Socio-Economic & Caste Census (SECC) 2011. Details on the methodology of SECC 2011 are available in this short Ministry of Rural Development circular.

Planning Commission Methodology

Rural and urban poverty lines were first defined in 1973-74 in terms of Per Capita Total Expenditure (PCTE). Consumption is measured in terms of a collection of goods and services known as reference Poverty Line Baskets (PLB). These PLB were determined separately for urban and rural areas and based on a per-day calorie intake of 2400 (rural) and 2100 (urban), each containing items such as food, clothing, fuel, rent, conveyance and entertainment, among others. The official poverty line is the national average expenditure per person incurred to obtain the goods in the PLB. Since 1973-74, prices for goods in the PLB have been periodically adjusted over time and across states to deduce the official poverty line.

Uniform Reference Period (URP) vs Mixed Reference Period (MRP)

Until 1993-94, consumption information collected by the NSSO was based on the Uniform Reference Period (URP), which measured consumption across a 30-day recall period. That is, survey respondents were asked about their consumption  in the previous 30 days. From 1999-2000 onwards, the NSSO switched to a method known as the Mixed Reference Period (MRP). The MRP measures consumption of five low-frequency items (clothing, footwear, durables, education and institutional health expenditure) over the previous year, and all other items over the previous 30 days. That is to say, for the five items, survey respondents are asked about consumption in the previous one year. For the remaining items, they are asked about consumption in the previous 30 days.

Tendulkar Committee Report

In 2009, the Tendulkar Committee Report suggested several changes to the way poverty is measured.  First, it recommended a shift away from basing the PLB in caloric intake and towards target nutritional outcomes instead. Second, it recommended that a uniform PLB be used for both rural and urban areas. In addition, it recommended a change in the way prices are adjusted, and called for an explicit provision in the PLB to account for private expenditure in health and education. For these reasons, the Tendulkar estimate of poverty for the years 1993-94 and 2004-05 is higher than the official estimate, regardless of whether one looks at URP or MRP figures. For example, while the official 1993-94 All-India poverty figure is 36% (URP), applying the Tendulkar methodology yields a rate of 45.3%. Similarly, the official 2004-05 poverty rate is 21.8% (MRP) or 27.5% (URP), while applying the the Tendulkar methodology brings the number to 37.2%.

A Planning Commission table of poverty rates by state comparing the two methodologies by is available here.

 

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The Draft Land Titling Bill, 2011

June 23rd, 2011 1 comment

The Department of Land Resources in the Ministry of Rural Development has released a draft version of The Land Titling Bill, 2011 on its website. This draft is a major revision of the original draft Bill released in 2010. Public comments on this draft are invited before June 24, 2011. A copy of the draft can be found here.

The Bill provides for the registration of all immovable property to establish a system of conclusive, electronically recorded titles. It also provides for a mechanism to invite objections and for the resolution of disputes through special tribunals. The property record will be considered as conclusive ownership by the person mentioned. This will help resolve uncertainties in property transactions.

Given that land is a state subject, the Bill is meant to be a model law for adoption by the states individually.  The framework of the bill is explained below.

I. Land Titling Authority and Preparation of Records

The Bill establishes a Land Titling Authority at the State level. The Authority’s task is to prepare a record of all immovable properties in its jurisdiction.

These records will contain (a) survey data of boundaries of each property; (b) a unique identification number for each property, which may be linked to a UID number; (c) any record created by an officer of the state or UT government authorised by the laws of that state to make such records; and (d) a record of Title over each property.

II. Title Registration Officer and Registration Process

The Bill provides for the government to create Title Registration Offices at various places, and for a Title Registration Officer (TRO) to function under the supervision of the Land Titling Authority.  The TRO will have powers of a civil court and is charged with the task of creating e a Register of Titles.

Steps for the registering of titles include: (a) notification of available land records data by the TRO, (b) invitation to persons with interest in such properties to make objections to the data, and (c) registration of properties by the TRO for which no dispute is brought to his notice in writing. In the case the absoluteness of the title to a property is disputed, the TRO will make an entry into the Register of Titles to that effect and refer the case to the District Land Titling Tribunal (discussed below)

III. District Land Titling Tribunal and State Land Titling Appellate Tribunal

The Bill proposes to set up a District Land Titling Tribunal, consisting of one or more serving officers not below the rank of Joint Collector / Sub Divisional Magistrate of the District. The government may also establish one or more State Land Titling Appellate Tribunals, to be presided over by serving Judicial Officers in the rank of District Judge. Revisions to the orders of the State Land Titling Appellate Tribunal may be made by a Special Bench of the High Court.

The Bill bars civil courts from having jurisdiction to entertain proceedings in respect to matters that the TRO, District Land Titling Tribunal, and State Land Titling Appellate Tribunal are empowered to determine.

IV. Completion of Records and Notification

When preparation of the Record for whole or part of a specific are is complete, it will be notified. Any person aggrieved by the notified entry in the Register of Titles may file an objection before the District Land Titling Tribunal within three years of the notification. Additionally, the person may file an application with the TRO for an entry to be made in the Register of Titles. The TRO shall do so when the application has been admitted to the Tribunal.

Minor errors in the Title of Registers can be rectified through an application to the TRO.

V. Register of Titles

After completion of records is notified by the Authority, the Register of Titles is prepared and maintained by the Authority. For each property, the Register will include: (a) general description, map, and locational details of the immovable property; (b) descriptive data such as a unique identification number, plot number, total area, built up and vacant area, address, site area, and undivided share in the land; (c) detail of survey entry, provisional title record, conclusive title record and status, mortgage, charges, other rights and interests in the property; (d) details of transfer of the property and past transactions; and (e) disputes pertaining to the property.

Entries in the Register of Titles will serve as conclusive evidence of ownership. These entries shall be maintained in electronic form, indemnified, and kept in the public domain.

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State Funding of Elections

December 22nd, 2010 2 comments

In the recently concluded Congress plenary, Congress President Sonia Gandhi suggested state financing of elections as a measure against corruption in the electoral process. State funding of elections has been suggested in the past in response to the high cost of elections.

A few government reports have looked at state funding of elections in the past, including:

  • Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections (1998)
  • Law Commission Report on Reform of the Electoral Laws (1999)
  • National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2001)
  • Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2008)

Here is what they had to say:

The Indrajit Gupta Committee (1998) endorsed state funding of elections, seeing “full justification constitutional, legal as well as on ground of  public  interest” in order to establish a fair playing field for parties with less money. The Committee recommended two limitations to state funding. Firstly, that state funds should  be given only to national and state parties allotted a symbol and not to independent candidates. Secondly, that in the short-term state funding should only be given in kind, in the form of certain facilities to the recognised political parties and their candidates. The Committee noted that at the time of the report the economic situation of the country only suited partial and not full state funding of elections.

The 1999 Law Commission of India report concluded that total state funding of elections is “desirable” so long as political parties are prohibited from taking funds from other sources. The Commission concurred with the Indrajit Gupta Committee that only partial state funding was possible given the economic conditions of the country at that time. Additionally, it strongly recommended that the appropriate regulatory framework be put in place with regard to political parties (provisions ensuring internal  democracy,  internal structures and maintenance of accounts, their auditing and submission to Election Commission) before state funding of elections is attempted.

Ethics in Governance”, a report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2008) also recommended partial state funding of elections for the purpose of reducing “illegitimate and unnecessary funding” of elections expenses.

The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, 2001, did not endorse state funding of elections but concurred with the 1999 Law Commission report that the appropriate framework for regulation of political parties would need to be implemented before state funding is considered.

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Transparency of Committees: International Comparison

December 21st, 2010 No comments

In the aftermath of the 2G scam, there has been a great deal of discussion on how Parliamentary Committees can be used for scrutinising the functioning of the government.  Committee Reports are generally put in the public domain, but how transparent are the internal workings of the Committees themselves?

As one measure of transparency, minutes of Parliamentary Committee meetings are included in Committee reports. The meetings themselves, however, are held behind closed doors.

A number of other democracies allow in-person public viewing of some (if not all) Committee meetings.  Several of these offer live webcasts of meetings as well. See options in Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, and the United Kingdom.

MP Transparency: India and South Africa

December 16th, 2010 No comments

The following is a comparison of the rules regarding the transparency of MPs’ private interests in India and South Africa.

In India, conflict of interest amongst MPs has been debated extensively in the recent past. The primary check on preventing potential conflicts is that all MPs must declare their assets and liabilities to the concerned Speaker (Lok Sabha) or Chairman (Rajya Sabha). The Rajya Sabha Ethics Committee maintains a register of these interests (no such register exists for Lok Sabha MPs).  Details in the Register of Members’ Interests include: remunerative directorship, regular remunerated activity, shareholding of controlling nature, paid consultancy, and professional engagement.

This material, however, is not put in the public domain.

An interesting comparison is the Parliament of South Africa, where the Register of Members Interests’ (consisting of  MPs from both upper and lower house) is made public. Financial interests of MPs, remuneration from employment outside of Parliament, directorships, consultancies, property details, pensions, etc., are all made public (see latest register here).

CWG Investigations: What is being done?

November 19th, 2010 No comments

The 2010 Commonwealth Games may have ended on October 14th, but the controversy surrounding the organising of the games is far from over. In Parliament, the Opposition has called for a Joint-Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to be formed to investigate suspected financial irregularities in the organising of the Games[1]. In a statement in Parliament on Tuesday, Minister for Youth Affairs & Sports M.S. Gill commented that “All irregularities will be examined and the guilty will not be spared”[2].

In July 2010, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) found irregularities in 14 Games related construction projects[3]. It has been reported that officials from the CVC now believe total misappropriation of Games Funds could be between Rs 5000 crore and Rs 8000 crore [4]. So what is being done about it?

Currently, six different government organisations are conducting independent inquiries into financial irregularities, corruption, and mismanagement of the Games: the High Level (Shunglu) Commission, CVC, CAG, CBI, Income Tax Department, and Enforcement Directorate (ED).  With so many government organisations involved, it can be difficult to decipher the big picture. Here is a breakdown of what each organisation is doing:

High Level Commission (Shunglu Commission): The Commission was appointed by the Prime Minister on October 15th[5]. It is chaired by V.K. Shunglu, former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, who has been given the status equivalent to a Supreme Court Judge[6]. The Commission has a broad mandate to investigate all matters regarding the Games, specifically:[7]

  • Roles and responsibilities of signatories to Host City Contract
  • Planning and execution of development projects and contracts
  • Effectiveness of organisational structure and governance for agencies involved
  • Managerial weaknesses
  • All financial aspects of the event, including wrongdoing
  • Coordination issues amongst agencies
  • Role of advisors and consultants to Organising Committee
  • Overall impact of the games
  • Lessons learnt for the future

A report from the Commission detailing its findings is expected by mid January.

Central Vigilance Commission (CVC): The CVC first found financial irregularities in 14 Games projects in July 2010.  Subsequently, it asked the CBI to register a corruption case against MCD officials in connection with a tender issued for a Games project[8]. In total, the CVC has found irregularities in 38 games related projects, under the following departments and agencies:[9]

  • Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports: 6
  • Delhi Development Authority: 6
  • Public Works Department: 6
  • Municipal Corporation of Delhi: 5
  • Central Public Works Department: 4
  • Organising Committee: 3
  • New Delhi Municipal Council: 3
  • Government of Delhi: 2
  • Department of Commerce: 1
  • Indian Meteorological Department: 1
  • RITES: 1

The CVC has directed the above agencies to respond to queries regarding the irregularities and has directed the CBI to begin a Preliminary Inquiry into them [10]. The CVC will report its findings to the Shunglu Commission.

Income Tax Department: The I-T Department is investigating tenders and awards of contracts for Games related works, as well as tax evasion [11]. It has conducted raids in offices of over 30 business firms and individuals [12].

Enforcement Directorate (ED): The ED is proceeding against Organising Committee officials for violations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) for projects involving venue development and overlays contracts awarded by the Organising Committee.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI): It has been reported that the CBI had received over 300 complaints of corruption in Games projects by August 2010[13]. It is verifying these claims and investigating matters highlighted by the CVC.

Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG): In August 2009, the CAG published a report entitled Preparedness for the XIX Commonwealth Games highlighting the lack of preparedness for the Games and its escalating cost.  The CAG is conducting a detailed audit of the Games that is expected to be published in March 2011[14]. Given that CAG reports are tabled in Parliament, the March 2011 report will be critical to the Parliamentary debate on the Games.

Two members of the Organising Committee, the Joint Director and the Deputy Director General, were arrested by the CBI this past Monday.  However, Given that the report of the Shunglu Commssion is due in January 2011, the CAG audit will follow two months later, and the current Opposition demand for a JPC remains unresolved, it may be some time before significant details are made public.


[1] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/BJP-to-press-for-JPC-probe-into-spectrum-Adarsh-CWG-scams/articleshow/6934697.cms

[2] http://www.thehindu.com/news/article890174.ece

[3] ttp://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/et-cetera/CVC-finds-irregularities-in-several-CWG-projects/articleshow/6229429.cms

[4] http://www.deccanherald.com/content/105830/cwg-fraud-may-touch-rs.html

[5] http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/games-over-pm-orders-probe-into-pre-event-mess/411739/

[6] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/CWG-probe-Shunglu-given-status-of-SC-judge/articleshow/6818404.cms

[7] http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=66561

[8] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/CWG-construction-CVC-asks-CBI-to-register-corruption-case/articleshow/6237714.cms

[9] http://www.hindustantimes.com/specials/sports/cwg-2010/22-more-CWG-works-under-CVC-scanner/CWG2010-TopStories/SP-Article10-614446.aspx

[10] http://www.indianexpress.com/news/Claiming-fraud—favour-in-Games-rentals–CVC-to-CBI–begin-probe/700998/

[11]http://www.indianexpress.com/news/it-dept-collects-cwg-works-related-documents/698683/

[12] http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article837892.ece

[13] http://www.indianexpress.com/news/cbi-has-over-300-complaints-regarding-games-works/655692/

[14] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/CAG-starts-Commonwealth-Games-audit-report-by-March-2011/articleshow/6252852.cms

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