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Online Audit of Gram Panchayats 

Online Audit of Gram Panchayats 

Context:

For the current financial year, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj has decided to conduct an online audit of 20 % of the estimated 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across the country. It is the first such exercise.

Details:

  • Objective: To ensure accountability in the utilization of funds at the ground level.
  • The exercise of auditing, to be conducted through AuditOnline, an application developed by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.
    • AuditOnline is an open-source application developed as part of the Panchayat Enterprise Suite (PES) under the e-panchayat Mission Mode Project (MMP) initiated by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.

Coverage:

  • The audit will cover all Panchayats across the country in the next financial year 2020-21.
  • During the current year, about 50,000 panchayats can be taken up for online audit.
  • For 2019-20 the Books of accounts of  Panchayats will be audited with a focus on how they used Finance Commission grants.
  • For the year 2020-21, the Fifteenth Finance Commission recommended an allocation of Rs 60,750 crore for rural local bodies. It is almost the same as last year recommended by the Fourteenth Finance Commission.

Benefits:

  • Online audit, with the option of physical verification, assumes greater relevance given the pandemic and the lockdown.
  • In the new online process, the auditors will be able to see online all documents related to work approval, work pending, and payments.
  • Officials can even ask for additional documents such as photographs as proof of work done.
  • As some works are geo-tagged, auditors can do a sample check by visiting the site. An online audit can be also monitored at all levels: district-state-Centre.

Challenges:

  • Timely availability of records was a major issue in the offline system.
  • More than 15 % of Panchayats in various states have not closed their books of accounts for the year 2019-20. 
    • Completing and closing the accounts is a pre-requisite for the online audit.
  • In fact, while 100 % of Panchayats in Maharashtra and Haryana have closed their 2019-20 accounts, no Panchayat has done this in Arunachal Pradesh and Bihar. States like Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are also low performers.

Source: Indian Express