The Centre has diverted funds worth Rs 2.83 crore allocated for several pension schemes to publicise other initiatives, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has found in an audit.

The performance audit report of the National Social Assistance Programme from financial year 2017-’18 to 2020-’21 was tabled in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The National Social Assistance Programme consists of three pension schemes for elderly citizens, people with disabilities and widows. Besides, two other schemes – one to provide food security for the elderly and the other to give a one-time assistance to families whose breadwinner has died – are also funded under the National Social Assistance Programme.

“Out of the total allocation to a state/ UT [Union Territories], three per cent fund was meant for administrative expenditure,” the Comptroller and Auditor General report stated. “During audit, instances of diversion of funds by ministry and states/UTs out of allocated funds for NSAP [National Social Assistance Programme] were noticed.”

In June 2017, the Union Ministry of Rural Development sanctioned the diversion of Rs 39.15 lakh allocated for the pension schemes towards publicity campaign for all initiatives of the ministry, the Comptroller and Auditor General said in its report.

In August 2017, a further Rs 2.44 crore was diverted for the “campaigning [of] Gram Samriddhi, Swachh Bharat Pakhawada and publicity material of multiple schemes of the ministry through five hoardings in each district of 19 states”, the report added.

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The report also said that the work orders for the publicity campaigns issued to the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity did not mention any scheme under the National Social Assistance Programme. Instead, the advertisements were meant for the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awas Yojana and the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana.

“Further, the campaigns were to be undertaken by DAVP [Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity] under intimation to the department; however, the payment to DAVP was made without confirmation of the execution of the work,” the report read.

In a reply to the auditor in December, the rural development ministry said that the matter has been taken up with its Information, Education and Communication division.