The Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) redirected money from the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), which includes pension schemes for old age, to promote some of its other plans, according to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).
The NSAP, launched on August 15, 1995, consists of three pension schemes – Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IGNOAPS), IGNDPS, and Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS) – as well as two other schemes: NFBS, which offers one-time assistance to bereaved families, and the Annapurna scheme, providing food security to elderly individuals not covered under IGNOAPS.
The CAG report, which reviewed the NSAP’s performance from 2017-18 to 2020-21, was presented in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
The funds assigned to the states and union territories (UTs) for NSAP were intended for providing pensions through various NSAP sub-schemes. Out of the total allocation to a state or UT, three percent was meant for administrative costs. The audit uncovered instances of both the ministry and the states/UTs diverting funds from the allocated NSAP funds, the report stated.
In January 2017, the Ministry of Rural Development decided to promote all of its programs and schemes through billboards in states and UTs. They allocated Rs 39.15 lakh for this publicity campaign in June 2017, with a cap of 10 billboards in each state or UT capital. In August 2017, they approved Rs 2.44 crore for campaigns related to Gram Samriddhi, Swachh Bharat Pakhawada, and publicity materials for multiple ministry schemes. These campaigns were to involve five billboards in each district of 19 states.
Orders were given to the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) in June and September 2017. The campaigns were set to take place in September 2017. While the funds for this campaign were initially said to come from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, audit findings revealed that the actual funding came from social security welfare-NSAP schemes.
However, the billboards only mentioned the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Gramin (PMAY-G) and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) schemes, with no reference to NSAP schemes. Additionally, the campaigns were meant to be carried out by DAVP after notifying the department, but payment to DAVP was made without confirming the completion of the work.
As a result, the planned Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) activities for NSAP were not executed as intended, and Rs 2.83 crore was diverted for campaigns related to other ministry schemes. This diversion led to the failure of IEC activities meant to raise awareness among potential NSAP beneficiaries, despite funds being earmarked for these activities.
The MoRD responded in December 2022, stating that the issue had been addressed with the IEC division of the department.
The CAG report also highlighted a diversion of Rs 57.45 crore across six states: Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir, Odisha, Goa, and Bihar. For example, funds allocated for the Integrated Programme for Older Persons (Rs 42.93 crore) were redirected to pay pensions under the Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS) in Bihar due to insufficient funds. In Rajasthan, National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS) funds meant for beneficiaries were used to pay insurance premiums for the Pannadhay Jeevan Amrit Yojana in September and December 2017.
The report further noted that in 10 states and UTs, funds designated for administrative expenses under NSAP (Rs 5.98 crore) were utilized for “inadmissible items” between 2017 and 2021. These items included honorariums, wages, and transportation costs.
According to the CAG report, around 4.65 crore beneficiaries received pensions for old age, widowhood, disability, and family benefits annually from 2017 to 2021. The central government released an average of Rs 8,608 crore per year during this period, and the states/UTs allocated an average of Rs 27,393 crore annually for pensions and family benefits.