रविवार, 1 जून 2014

Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS).should be abolished

  Under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), each MP has the choice to suggest to the District Collector for, works to the tune of Rs.5 Crores per annum to be taken up in his/her constituency. The Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament can recommend works in one or more districts in the State from where he/she has been elected. The Nominated Members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha may select any Districts from any State in the Country for implementation of their choice of work under the scheme.

The MPs identify works, which are allowed under the guidelines, and recommend them to the District Authority, which in turn is responsible for the overall implementation of the works. It is the responsibility of the District Authority to scrutinise and sanction the recommended works and to identify an implementing agency to execute the work. Local self governments such as the Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies, government departments (such as Housing Boards, Electricity Boards and Urban Development Authorities), or reputed NGOs can be selected for implementing works.

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation formulates the guidelines, releases funds, and monitors implementation. At the State level, a nodal department is responsible for coordinating, monitoring and supervising the implementation along with other relevant departments and the District Authorities. 

MPLADS has been in contention since its very inception. There are a number of issues which plague the scheme. First is the issue of corruption - there have been cases of widespread corruption and mis appropriation of funds. In a lot of cases, private contractors (which are not permitted) are engaged to implement the works.1  Also, there have been instances where expenditure has been incurred on works which are prohibited under the scheme.2  Second relates to funding - there are large amounts of unspent balances rising over the years, low utilisation of funds and an expenditure bias towards a particular sector. A significant number of MPs are yet to open a bank account.3  Third relates to delivery - there are weaknesses in the process of sanction. The District Authorities tend to execute works without receiving any recommendations from MPs concerned or on the recommendation of the representatives of the MPs rather than the MPs themselves. Further, there are lapses on the monitoring and supervision front, with the District Authorities failing to inspect the required number of sanctioned works as well as in sending regular monitoring reports.4  Fourth issue relates to the sustainability of the scheme - there have been charges that the scheme goes against the spirit of the 73rd and the 74th Amendment, with MPs enjoying the privilege of an uninterrupted yearly flow of funds to do the work which local bodies are better placed to deliver. The constitutionality of the scheme has also been questioned, with the argument that the scheme erodes the notion of separation of powers, as the legislator directly becomes the executive.5 

Along with these, there are other issues such as - lack of adequate information available to MPs, which sometimes leads to a disproportionately large amount of money flowing into one district. There also seems to be an absence of a proper mechanism to ensure constituent participation in order to determine locally felt needs, leaving open the possibility of a small group, having easy access to the MPs, impressing upon him to recommend works according to their needs.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has examined this scheme thrice and the government has sponsored independent surveys to assess the scheme. On each of these occasions, the auditors and surveyors have expressed concern over lack of supervision at the district level and gross violation of guidelines by MPs. But, there is no sign of credibility measures to set matters right.
The CAG also found that contracts were awarded without adopting standard tendering processes. Another irregularity was the absence of financial sanction and administrative approval. Auditors found that 26 per cent of the works were executed without sanction in four states that were surveyed by them.
The auditors have also come up with evidence which establishes fraud. Some samples of state- and district-level records showed misappropriation of funds in some states including West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Mizoram. School classrooms which were “constructed” by village education committees were nowhere to be found. An FIR had to be lodged with the police about the missing classroom! In Jharkhand a company took an advance of Rs 8 lakh for installing solar water pumps and vanished. In Bihar, officials of the National Rural Employment Programme were duping the government by claiming MPLADS funds for roads already constructed.
In Sikkim, funds from this scheme were used to construct anti-erosion bunds and walls to protect the private property of the MP and his relatives. Of 22 works sanctioned, all but one related to private property and in a dozen cases the contractors were also the beneficiaries. But, the biggest area of misuse is allocation of these funds to trusts and societies, often controlled by the MPs themselves. In ten states, the CAG found that funds in excess of the prescribed ceiling per society or trust had been released. In seven states, auditors found that 145 ineligible societies and trusts were given funds. Finally, the accounts are not audited regularly.  The auditors found 40 such districts. Strangely, the accounts of one DA (District Authority) in Jammu and Kashmir and one DA in  Lakshadweep had not been audited since the inception of the scheme in 1993!(Public Money, Private Agenda -- The Use and Abuse of MPLADSby A Surya Prakash)
This is clearly an executive function which should be handled directly by the Central/State Gpvernments .There is lot of murmuring in the public about functioning of this scheme which may or may not be correct but the fact is that that  the scheme involves huge funds which could be better utilized by direct involvement of the executive.

The new central government should  look into the matter and abolish the scheme and utilize the funds so saved in a better manner for development of the country.

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