Rajasthan, which is facing a severe drought for the third consecutive year, has decided to start a social audit system for its relief operations. The state government, which has undertaken its largest-ever relief operation this year, claims that the work is free from any financial leakages. The audit system is being introduced to ensure that the 'zero leakage' system continues in the future. But non-governmental organisations have rejected the state government's claim and cited plenty of examples pertaining to corruption in this year's relief work. Similar charges have been leveled against the government's relief activities in the past also (Read: Drought of relief, Down To Earth, June 15, 2001). The audit system would be introduced by amending the Panchayati Raj Act. As per the system, which will come into effect from August 15, 2001, the gram sabhas (village assemblies) will monitor relief operations undertaken in their respective areas.
According to Ashok Gehlot, the state's chief minister, government functionaries will work along with the people to ensure effective and proper auditing. "This will lead to tight assessment of people's needs. It will also ensure monitoring of distribution network," said Gehlot. The decision to introduce the system seems to have been stemmed from the chief minister's tour of 18 districts, during which he collected feedback on drought relief management. "It requires better public participation in the execution of government jobs by a well-managed bureaucracy," he summed. Though the focus of drought relief activities is to create community assets that will ultimately result in drought-proofing and economic gains, in the past Rajasthan has witnessed lots of construction works like building roads and schools being undertaken as part of the relief package. In such activities only 'financial leakages' were reported.
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