The Central government is carrying out a “planned euthanasia” of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, or MGNREGS, by delaying funding social audits, the Congress alleged on Friday.

This came hours after The Hindu reported that the social audits, the scheme’s internal mechanism meant to combat corruption, is ailing under a fund crunch and untrained personnel.

The sole responsibility of the social audit unit is to flag cases of malpractice. Following this, the state government recovers the money and reprimands the officials responsible. The report claims that the credibility of the audit process is under threat due to the dismal recovery of embezzled funds.

Data from the Ministry of Rural Development shows that less than 14% of the amount flagged by auditors for the ongoing financial year has been recovered so far. While the social audit unit flagged misappropriation of Rs 27.5 crore, the amount came down to Rs 9.5 crore after action was taken in some cases. However, only Rs 1.31 crore, which is 13.8% of the total, has been recovered.

In the previous financial year, only Rs 18 crore, or 20.8% of the flagged amount of Rs 86.2 crore was recovered. The year before that saw the recovery of only Rs 26 crore, or 15.2%, out of the flagged amount of Rs 171 crore.

Sharing the report, Congress General Secretary (Communications) Jairam Ramesh on Friday stated that the social audits by the gram sabha are an essential part of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

“They are meant to enforce accountability and enhance transparency – basically to stamp out corruption,” Ramesh wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Each state has an independent social audit that is funded directly by the Centre so as to preserve its autonomy.”

But the funding to the audits has been getting inordinately delayed, he pointed out. As a result of this, said Ramesh, the social audits do not get done on time and the process is compromised, “...which is then used as an excuse by the Modi government to deny funds to the states, that in turn affects wage payments and so on,” he said.

Ramesh added: “This is nothing but a planned euthanasia of MGNREGA — by trapping the scheme in a chakravyuh [trap].”

Centre owes Rs 6,366 crore to states

Minister of State for the Ministry Of Rural Development Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti had told the Lok Sabha in August that the Central government owes Rs 6,366 crore in dues to states and Union Territories under the rural employment scheme.

Data shared by the government showed that the Central government owes the highest amount – Rs 2,770 crore – to West Bengal. Jyoti also said that West Bengal was the only state for which dues have been pending for more than five months.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, introduced in 2005 by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, guarantees 100 days of unskilled work annually for every rural household.