MGNREGA's information system flawed, misguiding -Debmalya Nandy

-Down to Earth

The scheme's Management Information System destroys local accountability, promotes centralisation and administrative control and gives out wrong data

There is an increasing tendency in the Union government to show performances of central schemes, especially social welfare programmes, through data captured by the Management Information System (MIS). It is indeed a matter of astonishment how the MIS data always shows high performances of schemes and programmes, while ground surveys and studies give out a contradictory picture.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or MNREGA is said to have the best MIS, one that is aligned with the core idea of “pro-active disclosure” of all information related to implementation of the schemes. It is a real time Management Information System and the implementation of the schemes are directly linked with the MIS.

A real time MIS is one where there are checks and balances embedded in the system itself through software programming, which links different implementing mechanisms. In a way, activities are linked in the MIS in such a way that one will not be able to carry out “activity 2” without performing “activity 1”.

For instance, job card and bank account details of a worker will have to be seeded in the MIS in order to generate Muster Rolls (MRs) for him/her. Similarly, DPR (Detailed Project Report) has to be frozen defining component-wise budgets for a particular scheme in the MIS in order to be able to perform pre-implementation geo-tagging of the scheme. Geo-tagging is mandatory for generating any MR for the said scheme. The payment process is also linked with the MIS and depends on the number of such processes to be carried out one after another to finally make payments to workers which is centrally done through the Electronic Finance Management System (EFMS).

Different controls have been provided in the MIS at different administrative level log in ids such as Panchayat log in at the Gram Panchayat’s level, Programme Officer (PO) log in at the block level, District Programme Coordinator (DPC) log in at the district level and state log in at the state level. For example, in Jharkhand, you can generate MR from the panchayat’s level but one cannot take a print out of it from the same id. The print outs can be only taken from the PO log in. Another example: In Jharkhand, you can delete job card from the PO log in but one cannot resume it from the PO log in and the block will have to request the district and subsequently the district will have to request the state to resume the deleted job card (in case it is wrongly deleted) and it can only be resumed from state log in id. Likewise, a scheme can be closed or a DPR can be frozen in Jharkhand from the PO log in but to re-open a scheme or un-freeze a DPR, administrative paper work needs to be done before the problem can be resolved from the state log in id.

The complexity of the MIS linked implementation system is thus very clear. Also evident is the administrative control, which in turn leads to zero local accountability. The MIS, supposed to show performance of implementation, has now become the key controller of the programme and a deciding factor of people’s fate at ground.

Here are some instances of why the NREGA MIS does not show you the correct ground data:

1. It is very easy to generate fake work demand and MR and enter into the MIS. This is a general malpractice that is observed everywhere. One can observe people working on other people’s job cards in almost every state. This reality is not reflected in the MIS figures.

Dated receipts are routinely denied and work demand dates are generally falsely entered to avoid an unemployment allowance situation. While MR generations are routinely delayed beyond 15 days from demand, the truth is not visible from the MIS.

2. The website considers “wages paid” once the FTO (Fund Transfer Order) is signed by the second signatory. However, delays take place even in the processing of signed FTOs. While the stage 1(till FTO signing) delays are calculated, the stage 2 (post FTO, until wage gets credited to the worker’s account) are not shown on the MIS and thus the data on payments, which the system returns, is false and misleading.

3. It is very easy to make advance material payments to vendors. However as per rules, this should not be done. Almost everywhere, one can find payments made in advance to the vendors. While the website shows that material payment is made in a particular scheme, it is not necessary that the same has been supplied at the worksite.

4. There is a growing pile of evidence which shows that genuine job cards are being randomly deleted by the administration to meet the 100 per cent DBT(Direct Benefit Transfer) targets and hence the number of  job cards shown  on the website cannot be trusted. On top of it, the website considers job cards as “active” if it has registered at least a single day of work in the last three financial years (including the current fiscal year). This notion of an active job card is ridiculous as there exist millions of families that stopped working in MGNREGA due to payments hassles and their own troubled experiences. Instead of identifying these inactive job cards and finding out the reasons for their disinterest, the administration conveniently ignores these families.

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Down to Earth, 19 December, 2018, https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/agriculture/mgnrega-s-information-system-flawed-misguiding-62545

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