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Funds for Nutritional Diet of Poor Children ‘Diverted’ in Punjab in 2014-2017

An audit carried out by the accountant general has revealed that ICDS funds were misused to buy poor-quality containers at inflated rates.
 mid day meal in sirohi-rajasthan

Mid day meal in sirohi-rajasthan. Representational image. Image Courtesy: Flickr

A special audit of five districts in Punjab has revealed alleged diversion of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) funds meant for the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) from 2014 to 2017.

According to the audit, carried out by the accountant general (AG), funds meant for nutritional diet of poor children at Anganwadi centres were allegedly diverted to purchase inferior-quality food containers in Ferozepur, Gurdaspur, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ropar and SBS Nagar during the second term of the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule, The Tribune reported.

The auditor discovered that the Department of Social Security and Women and Child Development spent Rs 807.22 lakh on purchasing 30,085 containers each having a capacity of 100 kg but at different rates ranging from Rs 2,980 to Rs 3,429. Containers of a similar capacity (90 kg- l00 kg) were purchased by other districts at rates as low as Rs 814, the audit revealed.

The AG pointed out that Rs 707.22 lakh could have been tentatively saved if the containers were purchased at a centralised place at the headquarters level. Besides, the storage capacity of every container was less than 100 kg mentioned in the tender and the entry for hundreds of them was not made in the stock register.

Department director Arvind Pal Sandhu told The Tribune that “senior officials are looking into the matter as this is a departmental issue”. Kirpa Shankar Saroj, who has been given the additional charge of principal secretary of the department, said that he would look into the matter.

The SNP, which aims to provide diet to children below six years and pregnant and lactating mothers, is implemented through a network of Anganwadi workers under the ICDS. The department purchased the containers in nine districts using the SNP funds in violation of the guidelines, the audit noticed. The AG audited only five districts because the expenditure incurred in these was the highest.

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