MGNREGA funds being siphoned off: Deshmukh

New Delhi: Rural Development Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh today said money allocated for the government's flagship MGNREGA programme was being "siphoned off" and warned that CBI probe would have to be ordered wherever such allegations are noticed.

Deshmukh also said that on the direction of the Supreme Court, the CBI has already launched probe in two states -- Orissa and Jharkhand -- where irregularities were reported.

"As you are aware that CBI inquiry is initiated in some states regarding the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA works. I request you to be utmost careful in implementing this," he said while inaugurating a two-day national conference of project directors of District Rural Development Agencies (DRDAs).

"Unfortunately, we had to initiate CBI enquiry against some of the districts. Complaints are coming especially on the corruption. Huge money we are giving to the rural poor but the money is siphoned off in different way. We have no option, but to initiate CBI enquiry," he said.

Asking officials to "understand the seriousness of the issue", the minister told them to avoid circumstances to have more CBI inquiry in future.

"My request to you all is: please be careful," Deshmukh said.

Later, speaking to reporters, he said CBI probe has been launched in some districts of Jharkhand and Orissa.

"There are serious irregularities. Otherwise, CBI inquiry would not have been initiated," he said.

"It is a serious issue that the money alloted to NREGA is not reaching to the rural poor, the real beneficiaries, and it being siphoned off by others," Deshmukh said.

Asked whether state governments will be held responsible for corruption in MGNREGA, the minister said, "Basically, we have a plan of each district. So the districts will be held responsible. Not the state as a whole."

"The Supreme Court suggested the government to start CBI inquiry. We accepted the Supreme Court suggestion. As far as Jharkhand is concerned, there was a murder of an RTI activist. That particular inquiry, we have given to CBI," he said.

Asked about the Supreme Court's intervention in straightening things in the ministry, he said, "If somebody goes to the Supreme Court, there is every right to the Supreme Court to give suggestions or directions to the government. There is nothing wrong."

He said the ministry was focussing on implementing a "strong social auditing" to correct the whole system.

Deshmukh also praised the districts like Barmer and Tirunamalai which have done "excellent work" in implementing the rural employment guarantee scheme.

"The ministry is working on overcoming the problems faced in the implementation of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA and I'm sure that we will be able to achieve desired results," he said.

The minister also announced the decision to strengthen manpower at gram panchayats by appointing a panchayat development officer and a junior engineer in each panchyats.

"States can follow their own rules for recruitment but the process should be transparent."

"The consolidated remuneration for PDO and Junior Engineer will be Rs 12,000 and Rs 10,000 respectively. States can pay more at their own cost," he said.