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UK inquiry into misuse of India education aid

Shocked by reports of massive embezzlement in India in the use of millions of pounds granted as aid for education, Britain on Monday promised "zero tolerance to corruption" and launched an "immediate inquiry".



London: Shocked by reports of massive
embezzlement in India in the use of millions of pounds granted
as aid for education, Britain on Monday promised "zero tolerance
to corruption" and launched an "immediate inquiry".

In a statement to PTI, the International Development
secretary Andrew Mitchell said the allegations reported from
India about widespread corruption in the use of British aid
was "shocking".

"These are shocking allegations. I have launched an
immediate inquiry to ensure British aid money has not been
misused. The new British Government will have a zero tolerance
policy to corruption," he said.

"When I took up this job a month ago I made a pledge to
British taxpayers; they must know that for every pound of
their money, we will get 100 pence of value," he added.

Mitchell said he was reviewing "every single one" of the
Department for International Development`s country programmes
to ensure that Britain gave aid to where it was most needed,
to help the world`s poorest people.

"But I want to go much further. This is why last week I
announced a new independent aid watchdog - to scrutinise aid
on the taxpayers` behalf. In future we will also publish all
details of the department`s spending on our website," he said.

According to DFID figures, 24 per cent of Britain annual
aid to India is earmarked for education. Reports in the
British media about the corruption in India mentioned a figure
of 340 million pounds in aid to a schools project for children
under the age of14.

One audit of money earmarked for the Sarva Shiksha
Abhiyan project found that 70 million pounds had reportedly
vanished. A report in the `The News of the World` quoted
India`s Auditor General as saying that that almost 14 million
pounds had been spent on items and luxuries that had nothing
to do with schools.

"Cash meant for kids` education has been blown on
luxuries. We discovered that officials throughout the country
had used it to buy new cars and in one instance aid cash was
spent on four luxury beds costing a total of 17,754 pounds as
well as a 3,803 pounds computer," the report said.

Meanwhile, Human Resource Development Ministry sources
in New Delhi said the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme has a
very robust financial monitoring system which includes an
annual audit by chattered accountants empanelled by the CAG,
concurrent financial review by Institute of Public Auditors of
India, periodic performance review by the CAG and quarterly
review with the financial controllers of states SSA societies.

Large amounts of money were shown to have been spent on
schools that reportedly did not exist, while in some cases air
conditioners, faxes, photocopiers and 7,531 colour television
sets were reportedly bought despite there being no electricity
supplies. The report said that 150,000 pounds was paid into a
mystery bank account with no reason given.

It quoted a report by the Institute of Public Auditors of
India that in Bihar children were reportedly being taught in
open fields, because money had not been passed on for
classroom repairs. In Muzzaffarpur they found that only
400,000 out of an allocated 1.1 million had gone to schools.

One woman involved in the widespread fraud has been
accused of siphoning off up to 6 million pounds from the
funds, even using 44,000 pounds of it to make a movie directed
by her son.

"Auditors checking individual state accounts found sums
up to 4.8 million pounds missing from the books," the report
said.

India is one of the largest recipients of British foreign
aid.

HRD ministry sources said a recent post-procurement
review of 800 sample contracts was done by the World Bank
which showed only 0.6 per cent of diversion of funds were
noticed. Wherever there is any diversion or mis-procurement,
strong corrective action including filing of criminal cases
have been done, they said.

Besides, annual audit report of SSA society are in public
domain. Bi-annual joint review missions are conducted in which
Government of India`s nominee and representatives of SSA
development partners including the World Bank, DFID and EU
conduct depth review of the SSA goals, they added.

The DFID`s contribution to SSA is about two per cent of
the total funds under the scheme.

PTI

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