MP: Auditor Finds Major Scam in Take Home Ration Scheme
Madhya Pradesh's accountant general has detected a massive scam, worth over Rs 100 core, in the state's Take Home Ration (THR) scheme. The 36-page confidential report states that multiple glaring irregularities were seen in how the beneficiaries were identified and food was produced and distributed under the scheme. The findings were based on the investigation of around 24% of the scheme's beneficiaries for 2021.
The scheme aims to provide "nutritional requirements to children aged between six months and three years, pregnant, lactating mothers, and out-of-school adolescent girls aged between 11 and 14 years."
The scale of the fraud in the scheme can be seen in how the trucks six manufacturing plants or firms claimed to have used to transport 1,125.64 metric tonnes of rations worth Rs 6.94 crore rupees were found to be motorcycles, cars, autos, and tankers.
The report alleges that the state's Women and Child Development (WCD) Department did not finish a survey to identify out-of-school girls eligible under the scheme. Both Central and state governments had asked the WCD department to finish the survey by April 2018, but it hadn't been completed till February 2021.
In 2018-19, the estimates by the School Education Department put the number of out-of-school girls at 9,000. Without conducting any survey, the WCD department exaggerated it to 36.08 lakh. The audit further found that only three out-of-school girls were registered at 49 Anganwadi centres in eight districts. But, the WCD department's numbers mentioned that 63,748 girls were registered in these centres; the department further claimed that it helped 29,104 of them. The report states that it led to the falsified distribution of rations worth Rs 110.83 crore.
Similar exaggerations and manipulations were seen in production data reported by rations manufacturing plants.
"When raw material needed and electricity consumed were compared to the actual rations production, it was found Rs 58 crore of it had been fudged," as per NDTV. The report mentions six plants in Madhya Pradesh's Badi, Dhar, Mandla, Rewa, Sagar, and Shivpuri regions which claimed to have given 821 metric tons of rations despite not having enough stock.
Child Development Project Officers (CDPOs) received over 97,000 metric tons of rations in eight districts, but only 86,000 metric tons were sent to Anganwadis.
"More than 10,000 metric tons of rations, costing Rs 62.72 crore, were not transported nor available in the warehouse, indicating it had been pilfered."
NO QUALITY CHECKS
The audit also exposed how the ration samples were not sent to independent labs to check for quality and nutritional value despite being required to do so under the scheme, implying that the women and children may have received poor-quality rations. Additionally, there were no inspections at Anganwadi centres in eight districts during 2018-21.
"Audit, therefore, recommends GoMP (government of Madhya Pradesh) to investigate these issues through an independent agency and fix the responsibility of officials at all levels — CDPOs, DPOs, plant officials, and officials who arranged for transportation, etc., and all other officials who were directly or indirectly involved in these frauds or facilitated the frauds due to their negligence at all levels," the report read.
The audit findings have put the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, headed by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, under the scanner. Chouhan has been supervising the WCD department since 2021. The audit also mentioned that despite the scheme, Madhya Pradesh was the third-worst state in terms of maternal mortality rate during 2017-19.
Reacting to the development, Ashok Shah, additional chief secretary, WCD department, said that the irregularities were due to "clerical errors."
"The transport of THR is mentioned by motorcycle, car, auto, and tanker instead of trucks. In this regard, it was found in MP Agro's investigation that the above errors have been made in the clerical form," he said.
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