Unreliable MGNREGA data raises doubts & questions
Two sets of government data on UPA government's most famous flagship programme Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), for which Rs. 33000 crore was earmarked in 2012-13 budget, provide widely different figures for several states, a feature which experts say is indicative of the corruption in the scheme and weakness of social audit or accountability.
The government has increasingly relied on Management Information System (MIS) for monitoring NREGA at the Gram Panchayat (GP) level. However, the recently released Ministry of Rural Development report entitled MGNREGA Sameeksha (2012): An Anthology of Research Studies on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (2005) Act 2006–2012 points out the discrepancies in the data reported by Management Information System (MIS) and the National Sample Survey-NSS data [July 2009–June 2010].
Table 6.4 titled "Difference in NSSO 66th Round and MIS/Monthly Progress Report Data" located at page 71 (see above) of the Sameeksha report reveals that
• As per the MIS and Monthly Progress Report-MPR data [July 2009–June 2010], percentage of rural households in India provided employment under MGNREGA stood at 25 percent whereas the same as per the NSS data [July 2009–June 2010] was 24 percent. The differences are starker between MIS and NSS data on the same for states like Andhra Pradesh (MIS/MPR= 50; NSS= 35), Jharkhand (MIS/MPR= 44; NSS= 16), West Bengal (MIS/MPR= 26; NSS= 43) etc.
• As per the MIS and MPR data [July 2009–June 2010], average person days per household under MGNREGA in India stood at 54 days whereas the same as per the NSS data [July 2009–June 2010] was 37 days. Here too differences are starker between MIS and NSS data on the same for the states.
Speaking on these differences, the Sameeksha report suggests that more national level survey-based studies are required to verify the authenticity of MIS data.
According to Reetika Khera (from Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and a visiting scholar at the Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics), discrepancies arise usually due to misreporting or giving false figures. She said discrepancies were usually higher in states with more corruption in MNREGA, lower awareness and weaker accountability systems.
Why is MIS preferred in India?
MIS is preferred over paper-based Monthly Progress Reports (MPRs) since the latter could not be drilled down beyond the district level, which made it difficult to monitor Gram Panchayat-wise performance, issues and expenditure during 2006-07. MIS which provides real time online data can be used for the purpose of monitoring because of its reliability. It is assumed that MIS makes data transparent and available in the public domain to be equally accessed by all, thus ensuring Right to Information. In India the National Informatics Centre (NIC) has developed the MIS for National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The web-based MIS can be accessed from http://nrega.nic.in. MIS places all critical parameters such as shelf of projects, sanctioned works, wage payments, number of days of employment provided and works under execution on line for easy public access. For FY 2011–12, more than 90 per cent of the total expenditure (as compared to MPRs) is available on MIS (including details of beneficiaries etc.).
MGNREGA Sameeksha (2012): An Anthology of Research Studies on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (2005) Act 2006–2012, Ministry of Rural Rural Development, GoI,
NREGA MIS Circular, http://nrega.nic.in/circular/circular_mis.pdf
Budget allocations, net of recoveries for MGNREGA, Notes on Demands for Grants 2012-13, http://indiabudget.nic.in/ub2012-13/eb/sbe82.pdf
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