Bihar's rural jobs scheme is marked by open loot, plunder and pillage and the scale and dimensions of the corruption suggests the active connivance of government officials, according to a performance audit by an NGO released here Saturday.
Delhi-based Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS), which conducted a performance audit of the scheme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in Bihar, said that 73 percent of the Rs.8,189 crore spent in 38 districts of the state during six years (2006-07 to 2011-12) have been embezzled by the implementing authorities.
The amount siphoned off is nearly Rs.6,000 crore.
Parshuram Rai, founder director of CEFS, said the performance audit was done over nine to 10 months, covering 2,500 households.
"It was very difficult, as in many places they did not provide the report," Rai told IANS.
"The scale of pillage of funds is sickening," said Rai.
"The rural employment guarantee scheme in Bihar has been virtually hijacked by implementing authorities. Our survey findings have revealed that there is participatory loot, plunder and pillage in Bihar's rural job scheme.
"There is open loot of taxpayers' money, there is plunder of rural poor's right to guaranteed wage employment for 100 days and there is pillage of every single norm of democratic governance and public accountability," the report said.
It added: "The scale and dimensions of MNREGA corruption in Bihar suggest that this kind of open loot is impossible without active connivance of the block and district authorities."
"MNREGA has various inbuilt vigilance and monitoring mechanisms and it is not possible to perpetrate such an open loot of MNREGA funds unless it is participatory and organised," it said.
Over 90 percent of the sample households covered by the survey belong to the Dalit community with a majority of them being Mahadalit, the poorest of the scheduled castes.
"The 50-60 sample Mahadalit households surveyed in villages were very poor people, who are semi-starving, landless people. But they were not provided jobs," said Rai.
Instead, the upper castes, who comprised 5-10 percent of the village and were financially much better off, were provided the jobs, he said.
"It is a very organised MNREGA mafia, with the block and district authorities in league," said Rai.
"Disaggregated proportion of wage embezzlement in 10 sample districts is 80 percent in Purnia, 70 percent in Katihar, 62 percent in Begusarai, 71 percent in Muzaffarpur, 82 percent in Vaishali, 70 percent in Nalanda, 79 percent in Nawada, 63 percent in Gaya, 85 percent in Bhojpur and 68 percent in Buxar district. The average proportion of misappropriation in 10 sample districts comes to 73 percent," a press statement by CEFS said.
"We have reasons to believe that all this is done in complicity with block authorities and in most cases the district authorities are also direct or indirect party to this loot. Without complicity of block and district authorities, open loot of this magnitude is impossible," Rai said.
"There is little transparency and accountability in the implementation of NREGA in Bihar," he said.
"The embezzlement is done in a variety of ways, one is the wage component, the other is material component," said Rai.
"Not more than 40 percent of the project cost should go to material cost, but they have incurred 80-90 percent cost on materials...it is easy for embezzlement in material cost," Rai told IANS.
"Under the wages component, the needy people are not provided jobs and bogus entries are made against the names to show they have worked and the money siphoned off… It is a huge mafia at work," he added.
The apex court has ordered a probe into the jobs scheme in Odisha and Uttar Pradesh following revelations of corruption by CEFS, he said.