CAG picks holes in rural drinking water programme

The CAG has picked several holes in the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) saying lack of planning and funds management resulted in incomplete works for providing safe drinking water to rural habitations, schools and anganwadis.

In its audit report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said only 44 percent of rural habitations, 85 percent of schools and anganwadis were provided with access to safe drinking water during 2012-17 when the target was to achieve 100 percent.

Similarly, only 18 percent of rural population was provided with potable drinking water (55 litre per capita per day- lpcd) by piped water supply when the target was 50 percent.

It said the coverage increased by only 8 per cent at 40 lpcd and 5.5 per cent at 55 lpcd during 2012-17 despite the expenditure of Rs 81,168 crore.

As the target was to provide water connections to 35 per cent of rural households, the Water Ministry could achieve just 17 per cent, says one of the highlights of the audit.

“Implementation of the scheme was marked by lack of proper planning and funds management and delivery as well as ineffective execution of works that resulted in undue delays and expenditure that failed to yield the expected results or benefits,” reads the audit report.

“The total financial implication of the audit findings works out to Rs 2,875 crore, which was a very significant 15 per cent of the expenditure of Rs 19,151 crore.”

The CAG attributed the programme’s failure to achieve the targets partly to deficiencies in implementation such as incomplete, abandoned and non-operational works, unproductive expenditure on equipment, non-functional sustainability structures and gaps in contract management that had a total financial implication of Rs 2,212.44 crore.

It said Rs 8,788 crore out of available funds of Rs 89,956 crore (10 per cent) remained unutilised while Rs 359 crore diverted for ineligible purposes and Rs 304 crore blocked with State Water and Sanitation Mission and executing agencies.

NRDWP was launched in 2009 with the objective of providing adequate safe water for drinking, cooking and other domestic needs to every rural person on a sustainable basis.

The earmarked fund was Rs 89,956 crore (Central share Rs 43,691 crore and state share Rs 46,265 crore).

The CAG said the annual action plans of states lacked bottom-up approach and sustainability plans were either not prepared or not included.

“Operation and Maintenance plans were either not prepared in most of the states or had deficiencies leading to schemes becoming non-functional. As a result, incidence of slip-back habitations has persisted,” it said.

It also said the social audit of the programme to measure beneficiary level satisfaction was not conducted.

“Hence the overall monitoring and oversight framework lacked effectiveness and there was inadequate community involvement in this exercise,” it said.