Rampant embezzlement of funds in Social Welfare dept revealed

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Centrally sponsored Integrated Child Protection Scheme rendered still-born

By Paojel Chaoba

IMPHAL, March 12: The state Social Welfare Department has been functioning in a dubious manner with questionable embezzlement of Central funds. Corruption and misappropriation of funds earmarked for the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) implemented by the department has been a common practice.

The ICPS is a centrally sponsored scheme of the Ministry of Women and Child Development implemented in partnership with state governments and civil society organizations. The objective of the scheme is to establish a system that will effectively and efficiently protect children based on the cardinal principles of “Protection of Child Rights” and in the best interest of the child.

The scheme focuses on care, support and rehabilitation service to children. Children homes, foster care, adoption, sponsorship, shelter homes, special homes, observation homes are funded under ICPS.

Since the scheme’s inception in 2009, the Chief Controller of Accounts, Ministry of Women and Child Development sanctioned grant-in-aid of Rs 1,05,42,333 as central share for the year 2009-10 for Manipur. The amount was further compartmentalised to non-recurring (purchase of infrastructure etc.) and recurring expenditure (payments, salary etc.).

The heads were directed to State Project Support Unit (SPSU) with non-recurring amount of Rs 7,00,000 and Rs 5,80,233 for recurring expenses. For Adoption Co-ordinating Agencies (ACA), an amount of Rs 2,62,612 for recurring expenses was released. It also estimated the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) expenses of all the nine districts at Rs 7,65,000 for non-recurring expense and Rs 14,30,809 for recurring expenses. Rs 7,65,000 were spend on non- recurring expenditure in setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Rs 4,16,250 for recurring expenses. There are other expenses for running homes among the financial heads.

Similarly for the year 2010-11, a total of Rs 2,02,29,000 was sanctioned from the centre. The funds were released for setting up the State Child Protection Society (SCPS), District Child Protection Societies (DCPS), opening of five government run Specialized Adoption Agencies (SAA) and the amount was earmarked at 36.75 lakhs. Further finance was included for maintenance of 12 homes by NGOs, Child Welfare Committee and Juvenile Justice Board.

For 2011-12, the Centre also sanctioned another Rs 2,16,16,500 for similar purposes. Another Rs 3,11,28,000 was sanctioned for the year 2012-13.

The funds provided by the Centre as grant-in-aids for care and protection of children under ICPS are provided under a structural system which includes adoption, training, child care, juvenile justice, training programs etc. Commensurate staff and infrastructure to implement the said schemes and projects are a mandatory guideline. A proper State Project Support Unit is to be instituted to manage the structure as per the Centre’s guidelines.

The crux of the matter is that the ICPS has sanctioned funds for all the projects including recurring and non-recurring expenses since 2009. But, the personnel to manage the program were absorbed to the Social Welfare department on a contractual basis in October 4, 2013. Altogether, 148 persons were selected. Among the staff, 126 staff is for District Child Protection Society (DCPS), 3 for State Child Protection Society (SCPS), 4 for State Adoption Resource Agency (SARA), 6 for State Project Support Unit (SPSU) and 15 for Specialized Adoption Agency (SAA). However, there are some staff still pending to be contracted and the actual number should be 154.

The question is how the Social Welfare Department reflected the expense incurred in the audited statement and sent the utilisation certificate to the Ministry. Only after the state government officials after visiting the concerned NGOs and satisfied with the way the projects are running satisfactorily, the approval for the audited statement could be issued. Here, the funds for infrastructure, salary for staff, construction, rentals for office, wages for CWC and JJB members, programs for child care and protection, monitoring etc are being released since 2009. However, the main staffs for implementing the schemes were recruited only in October 2013. This shows the rampant corruption perpetrated by some officials of the Social Welfare department with concerned authorities.

At present, the salary of the newly recruited 148 staff has not been paid despite being given appointment letters in October 2013, they have not been deputed to their concerned projects. There is also no infrastructure to accommodate them. But the funds for staff’s salary and infrastructure were sanctioned by the ministry since 2009. The total funds till date for SPSU is approximately one crore seven lakhs at the very least and this has been misappropriated.

In the regard, the Project Approval Board (PAB) of Ministry of Women and Child signed by Under Secretary Fazal Mahmood in a letter dated March 22,2013 halted the finance for the State Project Support Unit totally which included SPSU,SCPS,DCPS and SARA for the said financial year. This was due to information from the State that no staff had been appointed yet and hence the grant was not released. But, it may be mentioned that funds were released since 2009. This document available with this reporter clearly supports the gross misappropriation of funds meant for care and protection of children by concerned officials of the Social Welfare Department.

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