Karnataka social audit report exposes ₹200-crore irregularities in Raichur MGNREGA projects; 2 booked

The irregularities, spanning the fiscal years 2020-21 to 2022-23, allegedly took place in the Devadurga taluka of the Raichur district.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Dec 01, 2023 | 8:11 PMUpdated Dec 01, 2023 | 8:12 PM

Karnataka social audit report exposes ₹200-crore irregularities in Raichur MGNREGA projects; 2 booked

The Social Audit Directorate (SAD) of Karnataka has brought to light significant irregularities — amounting to Rs ₹200.87 crore — in the implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) projects across 33 Gram Panchayats in Devadurga in the Raichur district of Karnataka.

The anomalies were unveiled in the interim report submitted by the SAD, prompting action in response to complaints filed by local residents and elected representatives. A copy of the report is with South First.

Responding to the directive from the Karnataka Legislative Assembly chairman, the SAD mandated the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) Additional Chief Secretary to conduct a thorough investigation into alleged irregularities spanning the fiscal years 2020-21 to 2022-23 within the Devadurga taluka.

In compliance with these orders, the Raichur Zilla Panchayat conducted a comprehensive probe in July and August, revealing the misappropriation of funds under MGNREGA works in the 33 Gram Panchayats.

Additionally, the investigation brought to light an allegedly fraudulent job card scheme operating in the taluka.

Subsequently, based on the findings of the interim report, Panchayat Raj Assistant Director Annarao Hanumanth took legal action by filing a case against two officials from the Devadurga taluka office at the Devadurga Police Station on 24 November.

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The allegations

According to the SAD committee report: “An excess payment of ₹11.64 crore beyond the estimated amount for MGNREGA works and ₹32.54 crore has been disbursed without proper verification of the documents related to the executed works.”

It added that illegal payments of ₹102.32 crore in 6,700 cases were made to Sri Maruteshwara Enterprises.

“Compounding the issue, a significant ₹5.10 crore in royalty under MGNREGA implementation has not been paid, causing a loss to the government exchequer,” it said.

It further said: “The material suppliers, instead of beneficiaries, received payments for the construction of shelters for cattle under MGNREGA works. Additionally, fake bills have been generated, claiming amounts for installing work-implemented boards when, in reality, no such nameplates have been erected.”

The report also alleged that fake job cards were created “for non-residents of the Gram Panchayat, leading to a substantial revenue loss of ₹49.27 crore under MGNREGA works.”

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Two officers booked

Based on the SAD committee report, the Raichur Zilla Panchayat lodged complaints against two taluka officers at the Devadurga Police Station.

A case has been registered against them under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 34 (joint culpability), 409 (breach of trust by public servants), 420 (cheating), and 465 (forgery).

The accused have been identified as Devadurga Taluka Office’s former executive officer Pampapati Hiremath and MGNREGA Assistant Director Basanna. The cops are yet to arrest the accused.

Raichur ZP CEO Pandve Rahul Tukaram told South First: “It is only an interim report. We are waiting for the final and detailed report on this.”

He added: “The first phase of the probe was carried out in 17 GPs and the second phase in 16 GPs. We formed multiple teams to probe the irregularities. There is enough data to prove the irregularities in the MGNREGA works in 33 GPS in the Devadurga taluka.”

He, however, also said: “We don’t have enough material evidence to prove the involvement of the panchayat development officers (PDOs) of these GPs.”

He continued: “The government has initiated necessary measures to curb irregularities in MGNREGA works by introducing geo-tagging and checklist. These irregularities occurred between the fiscal years 2020-21 and 2022-23.”

He also said: “I will also hold talks with the Superintendent of Police about the further investigation in this regard. Thereafter, we will take a call on whether to handover it to the other investigative agencies.”