Monday, November 29, 1999

No misuse of British aid for SSA: HRD ministry

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A day after Andrew Mitchell, secretary of state for international development, UK made statements in London about launching an inquiry into the alleged misuse of British aid given for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry hit back, expressing its 'dismay' and "shock at the unsubstantiated allegations in the press on the misuse of UK Grants for SSA". The Kapil Sibal-led ministry has also written to the Department of Economic Affairs, the ministry of finance and ministry of external affairs to take up the issue.An upset HRD ministry has refuted British media reports, issuing a statement saying that SSA followed a rigorous and robust monitoring system. It further points out that DFID was only a minor contributor to the flagship programme of the SSA. The government of India has invested Rs 91,431 in the project till date while "since inception DFID has reimbursed Rs 2,500 crore, which represents 2.7% of the total investment under SSA", says the HRD statement.The ministry has said that all cases of deviation from guidelines are dealt with severely, and states themselves have conducted inquiries and lodged FIRs and appropriate disciplinary action has also been initiated where necessary. Pointing out that the Institute of Public Auditors of India, Annual Statutory Audit by Chartered Accountants, Internal Audit by States, Quarterly Review Meetings with financial controllers, Periodic Performance Audit by C&AG constitute the various layers of auditing that SSA is put through, the ministry also added that both the World Bank and DFID had actually only recently expressed satisfaction with the SSA.Mitchell's comments came after some British media reports alleged that millions of pounds of aid had been misappropriated in India as per audit reports. 'The News of the World' quoted a report by India's auditor general that almost £14 million had been spent on items and luxuries and that large amounts of money were shown to have been spent on schools that reportedly did not exist, while in some cases air conditioners, faxes, photocopiers and colour television sets were reportedly bought despite there being no electricity supply. Mitchell had said that the new British government had a 'zero tolerance policy to corruption' and that every single Department for International Development (DFID) project was being reviewed.

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