The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG)today noted that deficiencies in scheme guidelines, lack of planning and irregularities in disbursement of funds had led to delays in payment of Post Matric scholarships to students from the Schedule Castes.
Disbursement of scholarships to 18.58 lakh Schedule Caste students under the Post Matric Scholarship scheme was delayed between one to six years in Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, the apex auditor said in a report.
The report titled ‘Performance Audit of Scheme of Post Matric Scholarships to the Students belonging to Scheduled Castes for studies in India in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh’ was tabled in Parliament today.
It said the guidelines did not contain any provision for monitoring and evaluation, which are essential for decision-makers to realistically evaluate the progress of the scheme and identify impediments to its efficient implementation.
There were persistent short releases of funds by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment resulting in accumulation of arrears amounting to Rs 5,368 crore (71 per cent) pertaining to the five selected states, the report said.
Poor financial management was reflected in diversion of funds amounting to Rs 28.94 crore in Maharashtra for maintenance of e-scholarship portal during 2012-17 and in Karnataka for purchase of stationery, computers, peripherals etc, in contravention of the scheme guidelines.
According to the report, there were undisbursed scholarship funds worth Rs 375.30 crore in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
The ministry was unable to implement PMS-SC through national scholarship portal due to technical issues and implemented the same through state portals, it said.
The state portals, the report said, lacked both general and application controls required for ensuring access security and providing assurance that transactions are valid, authorized, complete and accurate.
In Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, the auditor found discrepancies in data generated by the state portals with financial implication of Rs 455.98 crore, which needs to be investigated by the ministry as well as by states to obviate the risk of irregular payment and malfeasance.
“Despite the scheme being in existence since 1944, the ministry had not included any provision for effective monitoring and evaluation in the guidelines. Internal audit was absent in all test checked states except Uttar Pradesh where it was found to be deficient,” the report said.
Institutional mechanisms for monitoring and grievance redressal including internal audits, periodic inspections and appointment of grievance redressal officers were either not in place or practically non-operational, it added.
The ministry had also not carried out any comprehensive evaluation of the implementation of the scheme to identify changes needed to enhance its effectiveness and ensure achievement of its objectives, the CAG report said.
It recommended that states may be asked to strengthen their monitoring and control mechanisms including verification of eligibility of applications as well as payments and reimbursements for effective implementation of the scheme.
The report also asked the ministry to take steps to ensure accountability of officials and institutions for release of undue amounts as well as for non-release or delay in release of scheme benefits to the eligible students.
The ministry should prescribe indicative timelines for the states to furnish their demand for central assistance and for completion of processing, sanction and disbursement of scholarship, it said.