Social Audit in MGNREGA & MGNREGA Challenges- Explained Pointwise+ Infographic

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Social Audit in MGNREGA is a crucial element for ensuring success of the programme. Currently, its implementation is monitored by the Management Information System (MIS) on Social Audit, maintained by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD). The recently released data by the MIS on Social Audit sheds light on the progress and challenges of social audit in MGNREGA.

Social Audit in MGNREGA
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Table of Contents
What is MGNREGA? What is Social Audit in MGNREGA?
What are the Challenges in Implementation of Social Audit in MGNREGA?
What are the benefits of MGNREGA?
What are the challenges with the working of MGNREGA?
What steps can be taken to improve working of MGNREGA?

What is MGNREGA? What is Social Audit in MGNREGA?

MGNREGA- The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is the legal framework that enables the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

MGNREGS- The MGNREGS, launched in 2005 by the Ministry of Rural Development, is one of the largest work guarantee programmes in the world. It 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 of MGNREGS

1. Providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to rural households whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
2. Strengthening the livelihood resource base of the poor.
3. Proactively ensuring social inclusion
4. Strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs)
Read More- MGNREGA

Social Audit in MGNREGA- Social audit is the inbuilt anti-corruption mechanism in the MGNREGA Act, 2005. Social Audit is the examination and assessment of a programme/scheme conducted with the active involvement of people and comparing official records with actual ground realities.

Significance of Social Audit in MGNREGA
1. Quality checks of infrastructure created under the MGNREGA.
2. Checks on the financial misappropriation in wages.
3. Checks on procedural deviations.
4. Empowerment of the local communities by involving them in the audit process.

Legal Framework of Social Audit in MGNREGA

1. Legal Basis- 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.
2. Social Audit Rules- 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.
3. Autonomy Provisions- 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.
4. Penalty- The Centre has the authority to withhold funds allocated under MGNREGS, in cases where states fail to conduct regular social audits.

Progress of Social Audits in MGNREGA according to MIS Data on Social Audit
1. Only 6 states have surpassed the 50% mark in completing social audits of works done under MGNREGS in gram panchayats.

2. Kerala is the only state to have achieved 100% coverage of gram panchayats in social audits.

3. Five other states, apart from Kerala which have surpassed the 50% mark in social audit coverage are Bihar (64.4%), Gujarat (58.8%), Jammu and Kashmir (64.1%), Odisha (60.42%), and Uttar Pradesh (54.97%).

What are the Challenges in Implementation of Social Audit in MGNREGA?

1. Limited Financial Resources- Social Audit Units (SAU’s) ability to carry out thorough and effective audits has been compromised due to limited financial resources.

2. Political Influence- The intrusion of political influence has hindered the impartiality of social audits. This has impacted the authenticity and objectivity of the evaluation process.

3. Limited Awareness- Limited awareness of the legal framework for social audits among local communities has impeded their active involvement in the process.

4. Lack of cooperation- Social audit process has been impeded by the lack of cooperation and coordination between the implementing authorities and the social audit units.

5. Lack of Follow-up action- The findings and recommendations of the social audit reports are kept in abeyance, with no follow-up action to implement the recommendations.

6. Lack of protection and support- The social auditors and the Whistle Blowers face threats and harassment from vested interests due to lack of protection and support mechanism.

What are the benefits of MGNREGA?

1. Increase in rural income- The act provides a guarantee for 100 days of employment. This adds to the rural income of the households during the lean periods when no agricultural works are required in the field. For ex- In Barmani village of Madhya Pradesh, MGNREGA has given a boost to rural income agrarian income.

2. Curtailment of Distress Migration- The scheme provides support in times of agrarian and economic distress so that the individuals are not forced to migrate into cities. For ex- In Bandlapalli village in Andhra Pradesh, effective implementation of MNREGA has reduced the distress migration and made the village drought proof.

3. Women Empowerment- MGNREGA mandates that 33% of the labour workforce must be women. The Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of wages into women’s account has further led to their empowerment. For ex- In Pookkottukavu village of Kerala, MGNREGA has led to the formation of the country’s largest group of trained women well-diggers.

4. Battling Economic uncertainties like COVID- MGNREGA has proved its vitality in providing relief to the migrants during the COVID distress. It ensured income support to the vulnerable during the pandemic. For Ex- During the COVID pandemic, MGNREGA worker numbers crossed the 11-crore mark in a year for the first time since the launch of the scheme in 2006-07.

5. Revival of community assets- The community assets of traditional water conservation structures have been revived due to MGNREGA. These have helped to mitigate water stress to an extent. For Ex- Revival of Johads (percolation ponds) which remained abandoned for several years in many villages of Haryana.

What are the challenges with the working of MGNREGA?

1. Insufficient Fund allocation-  The government has not been duly allocating the budget in commensuration with the demands. For ex- Allocated budget of Rs. 73,000 in FY 2021-22 was 34.5% lower than the revised estimate of Rs. 1,11,500 cr.
Further, there has been delays in the devolution of funds to the states by the centre during the peak demand period.

2. Insufficient support mechanism-  The guarantee of the scheme to provide 100 days of employment is insufficient with unemployment rates reaching a 45-year high.

3. Gender based Discrimination- Various cases of discrimination against women have been reported in the implementation of MGNREGA like delays in the issue of Job Cards and less number of job cards being issued to women.

4. Delay in wage payments- There are regular delays in wage payments as the MoRD withholds wage payments for workers of States that do not meet administrative requirements like previous financial year’s audited fund statements, utilisation certificates, bank reconciliation certificates etc. It is workers who end up being penalised for administrative lapses. Also, there is no provision for compensation in case of delay in payment despite the Supreme Court mandating it in its order.

5. Deletion of Job Cards- The huge administrative pressure to meet 100% DBT implementation targets in MGNREGA has led to the deletion of genuine job cards. For ex- In Jharkhand, there were examples of deletion of genuine job cards, which were later issued due to the intervention by civil society.

6. Over-Centralisation and neglect of local needs- A real-time MIS-based implementation and a centralised payment system has reduced the role and diminished the accountability of the representatives of the Panchayati Raj Institutions in implementation, monitoring and grievance redress of MGNREGA schemes. The role of Gram Sabha in recommending works, has also decreased as a result of standardisation and over-centralisation.

7. Issues with the Online Attendance- The National Mobile Monitoring Software (NMMS) App for real-time attendance and geo-tagged photographs of workers has been a challenge for the workers due to digital illiteracy, poor internet connectivity, limited access to smartphones etc.

What steps can be taken to improve working of MGNREGA?

1. Implementation of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development and Panchayati Raj on MGNREGA-
a. Increasing the guaranteed days of work under the scheme from 100 days to 150 days.
b. Regular consultation with the local stakeholders to include local area-specific works as per the local needs.
c. Increase in the wage rates commensurate with inflation and linking the MGNREGA wages to Consumer Price Index (CPI)-Rural as opposed to CPI-Agricultural Labour as recommended by Dr. Nagesh Singh Committee.
d. Compensation to the beneficiaries in case of delays in wage payments, at the rate of 0.05% of unpaid wages per day for the duration of delay.
e. Ensuring proper social audits and placing the audit reports in the public domain every year.
f. State governments must comply with appointment of ombudsmen for each district who will receive grievances, conduct enquiries, and pass awards in matters of MGNREGA.

2. Greater allocation of Funds- The World Bank recommends allocation of 1.7% of the GDP for optimal functioning of MGNREGA. The current allocation is around 0.5% of the GDP.

3. Involving the civil society organisations- Civil society organisations can become developmental partners in the implementation of the scheme. For Ex- Support of civil society organisations like the Paani Foundation for constant monitoring and maintenance of water work under MGNREGA.

Read More- The Hindu
UPSC Syllabus- GS II- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
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