Minister of Statistics and Programme Implementation Srikant Jena, as if in a farewell gift, has granted “absolute freedom” to his fellow MPs in implementing the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS). Jena’s liberalisation, which has enough potential for massive corruption, has come at a time when the MPLADS is already under CAG scanner for “irregularities” in its implementation.
As per the new liberal norms, it will not be mandatory to call tenders for implementing a project or a scheme anymore. Any work can be assigned to any agency or an NGO just like that with the only rider being that it should have “national reputation”. This is being done despite the fact that the CAG in its latest report had pointed out several violations of guidelines and irregularities in the implementation of MPLADS from 2004-05 to 2008-09.
Another decision with equal potential for corruption is the new provision that MPs can allot up to Rs 1 crore to any trust or a society to execute works under MPLADS. The ministry had earlier imposed a restriction that a society or a trust would not be able to seek more than Rs 50 lakh from MPLADS in its life-time as there were reports of irregularities involving the kin of MPs. Every year, an MP gets Rs 5 crore under MPLADS.
“This decision could lead to drastic corruption. Anybody, including an MP’s family member, can form a trust or an NGO and can get these Rs 1 crore every year. There have already been instances of new trusts or societies being formed every year to keep on getting public money from the MP. Now that will only increase,” said a source within the ministry.
Another decision with equal misuse potential is the new clause that MPLADS funds can be used for works in “private lands”. Till now the works under MPLADS were allowed only in projects with public purpose.
“All MPs may not be corrupt. But there will be no end to corruption if the MPLADS funds are used for private purposes,” said the ministry official.
In fact, this new leniency is quite in tune with the steady demand from the MPs cutting across party lines that “the only restriction should be that proper accounts are kept of the expenditure and the work being done is of high quality”.
The MPs had even written a letter to the ministry threatening to forgo their funds if they were not allowed to utilise the funds as per their choice. Demanding “absolute freedom” in implementing the scheme, they had said: “We are not government employees who are bound by rules.”
The letter was signed by MPs belonging to all parties. They include Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), Vijay Bahadur Singh (BSP), P L Punia (Congress), Ganga Charan Rajput (BJP), K D Deshmukh (BJP), Prasanna Kumar Patsani (BJD), Supriya Sule (NCP), M Tambidurai (AIADMK), Satabdi Roy (TMC), Sameer Bhujbal (TMC), Neeraj Shekhar (SP), Mohan Jena (BJD), Jose K Mani (Kerala Cong), M K Raghavan (Congress), Anand Pranjape (Shiv Sena), A Sampath (CPI-M), A Owaisi (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen), Francisco Sardinha (Congress), Praveen Singh Arow (Congress), G V Harsha Kumar (Congress), J K Riteesh (DMK), Meghraj Jain (BJP), Dr Tarun Mandal (SUCI), Veer Singh (BSP) and Raghunandan Sharma (BJP).
“The only concern for the implementing ministry should be to see whether the funds are utilised properly on quality work or not,” the MPs had said.
This UPA Government had raised the MPLADS amount from Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore per year two years back. Which means each Lok Sabha MP would have Rs 25 crore per term at his disposal; in the case of Rajya Sabha MPs, it would be Rs 30 crore.