CAG finds mess in implementation of scholarship programme by SWD

SRINAGAR: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has pointed out widespread mess in scholarships provided to Scheduled Tribes (ST) students by Social Welfare Department (SWD) with irregular payment of more than Rs 900 lakh for unrecognized courses and to unaccredited computer centres.
The CAG says in its annual report that excess payment of Rs 25.34 lakh as scholarship, non-observance of prescribed procedures and payment of scholarship directly to the private computer institutions and centres in contravention of the provisions of Post-Matric Scholarship (PMS) scheme were also recorded during the audit of the office records.
The PMS, a government of India scheme, aims at providing financial assistance to ST students studying at post-matriculation or post-secondary stage to enable them to complete their education.
The scheme in the state is implemented by Director, Tribal Affairs through the District Social Welfare Officers of the SWD.

Scholarships given on deficient applications
The CAG says neither the income certificates of the competent revenue authority that is Tehsildar concerned nor affidavits on non-judicial stamp paper declaring the income of the parents or guardians were found attached with the application forms.
Test check of application forms, the CAG report says, received from the students for reimbursement of scholarships showed that in 225, out of 1000 test-checked application forms of ST scholars, who had been paid Rs 39.15 lakh, no relevant certificates were found.
“The income certificates enclosed with the applications forms were obtained from local MLAs, who have not been delegated the authority to issue such certificates. Further, in six cases involving scholarship of Rs 1.22 lakh, affidavits were found tampered by way of applying correction fluid on names, percentage and signature etc,” it adds.

Inadequate coverage of students
The CAG says that 7,131 students remained uncovered though they were entitled for the scholarships. The Director attributed non-disposal of the claims for scholarship to paucity of funds.

Unauthorized payment
The CAG says that payments were made to unrecognized computer courses and institutes in violation of the scheme guidelines which clearly say that the payment should be made for recognised institutions only.
“Audit scrutiny showed that scholarship (of Rs 4.26 crore) had been sanctioned in favour of 2,046 students during the period 2008-12 for undergoing computer courses like Diploma in Software management (DISM), Diploma in Computer Application (DCA), Certificate Course in Computer Application (DCCA) and Diploma in Information Technology (DDT) from 20 computer institutes and centres which were not authorized for undertaking these courses,” the CAG says.

Payment to ineligible students
The CAG report also reveals that after scrutinizing the records of the SWD, it was found that scholarship of Rs 4.98 crore was sanctioned during the period 2008-12 in favour of 2,342 students who had pursued computer courses like Computer Hardware Maintenance (CHM)-O Level (Hardware) Course/O, A and B Level (Software) Courses in private computer institutes without being registered with National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELIT).
“The Director attributed the lapse to inadequate manpower and assured that no payment would be made without proper scrutiny of applications in future,” the CAG report says.

Excess payment
The CAG also says that during the audit examination of records of the SWD, it was revealed that the Director Tribal Affairs reimbursed non-refundable fee claimed by various computer institutions at various rates ranging between Rs 18,000 and Rs 21,000 for CHM-O level courses and O, A and B level (Software) courses against the approved fee of Rs 16,700 for ‘O’ level software and Rs 17,409 for ‘CHM-O’ level hardware courses.
This resulted in excess payment of scholarship of Rs 25.34 lakh to 975 students. “The Director informed that the payment was made on the basis of fee structure finalized by the Department,” the CAG says. “The fact was that the fee structure was not approved by the government.”