Assessment of MGNREGA Divas
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is an employment programme from the Central Government in India, giving each citizen the right to demand 100 days of work at minimum wages. MGNREGA Divas (MD) is a special initiative of the Rural Development Department (RDD) in Bihar, in which each district administration of Bihar is supposed to send an independent team (without MGNREGA district-level functionaries) to one panchayat per administrative block of the district every Wednesday. This team is supposed to check on the status of public works and audit muster rolls of work and payments against the factual situation on the ground. Reports from these audit teams form the basis for corrective steps, including fund recovery and punitive action if funds are proven to have been diverted. This study, at the request of the Rural Development Department (RDD) in Bihar, is an effort to better understand whether the MD visits are indeed happening as frequently as prescribed, as well as the quality of these visits.
There are three major findings: (1) Visit quantity: The number of MD visits that take place each Wednesday is far lower than the number stipulated in RDD’s instructions to the district administration. (2) Visit process quality: MD teams do not generally comply with RDD instructions on the processes to be followed during the visit. (3) Visit output quality: The teams do not seem to be capturing irregularities in worksites and wage payments, which is the purpose of their visits.
Based on the findings, the researchers recommend that RDD reduce the expected frequency of MD visits per district while focusing on increasing compliance and quality. In addition, they can introduce technology based monitoring (using tablets/mobile phones) to track MD visits and increase compliance of RDD instructions. Another move to improve the quality of the MD visits can be to set a more realistic protocol for MD teams, while seeking stricter adherence. RDD should also consider insisting on district-level announcement of MD visit details in 2 prominent local newspapers to keep the public informed. Sending state-level or third-party teams to back-check randomly chosen MD reports should also be considered. Since action taken after each visit is key to creating impact, RDD can consider providing central guidelines on possible action-types.