Kerala: Audit fails to report lapses in Scheduled Caste scheme

Major irregularity was that same beneficiaries were granted huge sums as part of scheme again in 2016-17.

KOCHI: Gross anomalies have again surfaced in the implementation of the scheme to give financial aid to Scheduled Caste (SC) students for higher education abroad by the Ernakulam District Panchayat. These were almost brushed under the carpet in the State Audit Department’s audit report for the year 2016-17. Interestingly the audit report for 2015-16 had made a scathing attack on the implementation of the scheme by lavishing lakhs of rupees on students who were not selected properly and were not meritorious also. There is no mention of not correcting the discrepancies pointed out in the 2015-16 audit report, in the new audit report.

Official sources also pointed out that a major irregularity that was not recorded in the new audit report was that the same individual beneficiaries had been granted huge sums as part of the scheme again in 2016-17 after 2015-16. “Individuals are not entitled to get such assistance continuously. It should be given to another set of individuals the following year which has been breached in this case,” an official pointed out.

However, the new audit report has pointed out that since no stipulation has been fixed by the district panchayat on granting aid to students who availed the scheme in 2015-16, huge sums were granted to them in 2016-17 also. It also
pointed out that a beneficiaries’ list was also not prepared by the panchayat nor any monitoring was done. The panchayat also did not seek from students
the documents needed to continue study.

Vidya V, a student who belongs to Cochin Corporation and has only a second class BSc nursing degree is ineligible to get the aid as the scheme is for meritorious students and not for those in the Corporation limits. But she has been granted '19,95,191 in 2016-17. The audit report does not raise any objection to this. The previous audit report had found that Somarajan P S (Vengola grama panchayat), another beneficiary, was working for 10 years in Oman Ministry of Health which alone makes him ineligible to get the aid. All these aspects are missing in the latest audit report for 2016-17. However, he has been given Rs 9.11 lakh in 2016-17 for study overseas, the new audit report notes.

There is no mention of other beneficiaries reported in the previous report Sarath P V (Mazhuvannur grama panchayat) and Sudheena Ravi (Alangad grama panchayat), in the new report and what sums were granted to them. Both were reported ineligible. Rs 17.85 lakh was spent on Sarath while Rs 16.42 lakh was spent on Sudheena Ravi in 2015-16. The previous audit report had said that as per norms the grama sabha was the authority to select beneficiaries. However, such a selection has not been undertaken by the grama sabhas in these cases. The latest audit report does not hold the District Panchayat accountable in this case. It also casually says that it would be appropriate to decide to give the money after ensuring that the students continue to study!! While in 2015-16 Ernakualm district panchayat was the best panchayat in the state, in 2016-17 it was second best!!

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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