The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has suspected fraud and corruption in the implementation of the post-matric scholarship (PMS) scheme under direct benefit transfer (DBT) in Odisha.
In its report on the performance audit of the implementation of DBT in payment of PMS to eligible students in the state, which was laid before the state assembly on Tuesday, the CAG said, "Due to the absence of detailed checklist for inspection of private educational institutions, 5,185 beneficiaries of 15 ineligible institutions, had been granted PMS, amounting to Rs 15.79 crore, during financial years 2016-17 to 2016-20.".
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in its revised guidelines issued in May 2018, made it mandatory for the inspection of private educational institutions by officials nominated by the district collectors.
However, the CAG noted that there was no provision for inspection of private educational institutions, for sanctioning PMS.
Joint physical inspections of 16 institutes, affiliated with the National Council of Vocational Research and Training (NCVRT) and Bharat Sevak Samaj (BSS), were carried out in September and October 2021, by the welfare extension officers (WEOs) and assistant district welfare officers (ADWOs), in the presence of audit officials.
Of the 16 institutes verified during the joint verification, it was found that eight were not in existence and the existence of these institutes could not be ascertained even from the local people, the report said.
"The Prerana (PMS scheme portal) software was also not equipped properly to identify and filter out these ineligible institutes. As a result, PMS, amounting to Rs 15.79 crore, was appropriated by non-existing/ineligible institutes," it said.
The CAG also found that the PMS has been granted to the students, even if they discontinued their studies.
Sakuntala Sudharsan Institute of Technology (SSIT) in Mayurbhanj district was running three-year diploma courses, wherein 1,369 students had taken admissions during 2016-20.
The audit analysed the semester results of the 2016-19 and 2017-20 batches and found that 138 and 142 students, respectively, had not cleared their final examinations and had discontinued their studies. However, they were paid PMS, amounting to Rs 2.36 crore.