The Madhya Pradesh accountant general has also detected irregularities in women and child development (WCD) department, being headed by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan himself.
Vehicles listed as trucks turned out to be scooters, motorcycles and autos and the number of beneficiaries was hugely inflated, says the confidential report accessed by TOI. The AG has asked the chief secretary to hold an investigation through an ‘independent agency’ and fix responsibility of officials.
“Audit findings clearly indicate large-scale fraud/misappropriations in the identification of beneficiaries, production, transportation distribution and quality control of Take-Home Ration (THR),” it says, suggesting a revamp of the entire process and evolving an IT system for better monitoring.
Close to midnight on Sunday, the state government issued a response, blaming ‘clerical errors’ in part and saying that corrective measures have already been taken on the CM’s instructions.
Under THR, nutritious food is distributed to children aged 6-36 months and pregnant/lactating women. The directorate informed auditors that the government had spent just over Rs 2,393 crore to procure 4.05 MT THR to deliver to 1.34 crore beneficiaries of all categories from 2018-2021.
In 2018-19, the school education department had estimated the number of out-of-school adolescent girls (OOSAGs) at 9,000 but the WCD department, without conducting any baseline survey, estimated their number at 36.08 lakh, says the report. The audit found clear indication of “data manipulation” during 2018-21, leading to the “fake distribution of THR worth Rs 110.83 crore”.
Auditors also suspect fake supply of 821.8 MT THR, worth Rs 4.95 crore. Also, 479.4 MT of THR worth Rs 2.96 crore was transported on trucks that “do not exist”.
A government release late on Sunday said that the WCD department has already taken corrective measures. “The adolescent girls’ survey was conducted again and the number of beneficiaries was reduced from 2.6 lakh in 2018-19 to 1.28 lakh in 2020-21. In 2021, only 15,000 remain. This was done on the CM’s instructions as minister of the department,” it said, adding that in 2022-23, only about 8,600 girls were found in this category. Baseline survey on OOSAG was conducted and the data submitted to Centre, it says.
“Name and Aadhaar of all the beneficiaries are being verified and production, distribution and use of THR is being monitored via ‘Nutrition Tracker App’ & Sampark App. This has brought about transparency,” it said.
The government blames a “clerical error” for autos and bikes being passed off as trucks. “In a probe by MP Agro, it was found that M GF 9139 was listed as ‘MP04’ and MP 09 HG 9555 as ‘9559’,” it said. On substandard ration, the government pointed out that lab tests were conducted , and 15% or Rs 38 crore was deducted in payment.