Anatomy of a Central Scheme: Understanding Accountability in MNREGA

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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.