In light of the CAG audit, which will examine the compliance, performance, and financial aspects of the program, which was renamed “PM Poshan” in 2021.
CAG 2023: The Ministry of Education has asked the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) to conduct a special audit of the midday meal program in the state, citing alleged financial mismanagement, days after establishing a panel to examine the implementation of the program in West Bengal.
On Wednesday, the ministry made its choice official and stated that it would implement the necessary “corrective action” in light of the CAG audit, which will examine the compliance, performance, and financial aspects of the program, which was renamed “PM Poshan” in 2021.
“The Ministry of Education has received reports about the alleged misuse of funds in West Bengal under the PM Poshan scheme. Instances of deviations in implementation of the scheme have also been reported in the media. In view of the above, the ministry has requested the CAG for a special audit of implementation of the scheme in the state for the last three financial years,” an official statement said.
The ministry had announced the formation of a Joint Review Mission (JRM) on January 13 to look into various facets of the scheme’s implementation, from “fund flow from state to schools” to “convening the meetings of district-level committee under chairperson of senior most Member of Parliament” in West Bengal.
Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the opposition in West Bengal, wrote to Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan alleging “misappropriation” of funds for midday meals by the Trinamool-led administration. This led to the formation of the JRM.
“The funds granted by the Central government in this regard have been systematically diverted unethically by the state government on a regular basis to serve their own interests,” he had alleged.
The members of the committee later traveled to the state as well. The JRM for West Bengal, incidentally, had a press release from the ministry, but the JRMs for Tamil Nadu and Telangana, which were formed at the same time, did not.
These joint missions “shall visit eight to ten states every year to review the implementation of the scheme at state, district, and school levels on defined parameters,” as stated in the PM Poshan guidelines. A JRM’s visit to West Bengal in 2020 needed to be “deferred.”
West Bengal’s most recent JRM report was published in 2015. The state was commended by the JRM for a number of things in its report, including “systematic allotment of food grains without any delay,” “monitoring management,” and “preparation of menu in consultation with the parents and other stakeholders.”
Additionally, it had mentioned limitations like “no proper kitchen and dining space” in all village schools and “30% of the schools are run in rented houses in which owners are not permitting to cook the meal inside the building.”