IMPHAL, May 25: In a surprising turn of events, the new State Government led by Chief Minister N Biren has decided to extend terms of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) Ombudsman of six districts by one year, even though they have completed 353 days or almost one year.
An order issued by the Deputy Secretary Valentina Arambam, Secretariat Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department (State Level Monitoring Cell), on May 20 notified the service extension of the Ombudsman of Imphal East district, Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati, Thoubal and Tamenglong by one year.
According to the order, the service terms of the Ombudsman of Imphal East, Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati and Thoubal is from last year’s June 2 till this year’s June 1. For Tamenglong, it is from September 15 last year to this year’s September 14.
According to a source, section 27 of the MGNREGA Act 2005 states that there should be an Ombudsman for each district and the respective State Governments need not spend any finance regarding the salaries of these Obudsman adding that their salaries are paid from six percent of the office expenditure from the total funds sanctioned by the Central Government for the scheme.
The Obudsman began service from June 2, 2014. Their terms usually last two years and after that the Government usually appoints new Ombudsman or extends the terms of former Ombudsman by a period of one year twice.
The source claimed that the initial two year terms of the Ombudsman concerned had completed on June 1 last year and the district have had to do without Ombudsman for the last 11 months.
It claimed that the State Government had submitted a forged report to the Ministry of Rural Development about the presence of Ombudsman in six districts, although in reality they were not functional.
The source further pointed out that Ombudsman of some districts whose terms expired on November 28 last year, had submitted an application to the Chief Secretary to extend their term by one year.
With no action from the State Government side, the Ombudsman of six districts were given one year extension on May 20.
Even though their terms have been extended, only around 10 days are left for six districts to take up any tangible work while there are around four months left for Tamenglong district.
The Ombudsman office is like the anti corruption cell of the MGNREGA scheme which job card holders can approach for complaints and issues.
The Ombudsman also monitors not only MGNREGA but also Prime Minister Awaj Yojna (Housing for All) and Construction of Individual Household Latrine (IHHL).
Source: The Sangai Express