SKOCH Challenger Award to Ministry of Panchayati Raj for Transparency in Governance
New Delhi: Shri Sunil Kumar, Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj received the SKOCH Challenger Award conferred to Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) under “Transparency in Governance” category for IT-led initiatives and transformational reforms leading to outcome-based performance improvement, better transparency and strengthening of the e-Governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) across the country. The SKOCH Challenger Award for best performance in the area of Transparency in Governance was given virtually during the 70th SKOCH Summit (SKOCH Public Policy Forum) held today.
While speaking on this occasion, Secretary, MoPR expressed his appreciation and thanks to the SKOCH Group for recognising the initiatives and efforts of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj for this award. Shri Sunil Kumar, Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj delivered his address on important topic “Decentralisation and Transparency” and participated in a panel discussion on Inclusive Growth and Public Policy alongwith Shri Amarjeet Sinha, Advisor to Prime Minister and Shri N. N. Sinha, Secretary, Department of Rural Development as esteemed panellists and Shri Sameer Kochhar, Chairman, SKOCH Group as moderator.
Addressing the virtual event attended by a large number of online audiences / participants from different parts of the country, Secretary, MoPR said that decentralization in its democratic political aspect rests on the twin pillars of participation and transparency & accountability. Decentralization of powers to the Panchayats is seen as a means of empowering people and involving them in the democratic process. Over the last 27 years since the 73rd Constitutional amendment gave constitutional status to the Panchayats, the PRIs have come a long way. Panchayats have significantly contributed to women empowerment, as about 45 % of the elected representatives of Panchayats are women. In addition to the constitutional provision of not less the one third reservation for women, 21 States have made provision for 50% reservation for women. Today, increasingly young educated qualified persons are getting elected as Sarpanches, and contributing significantly for local development.
He stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has tested the strength of various institutions at all levels and the Panchayati Raj Institutions have played a stellar role in COVID-19 control and management. They are also playing an important role in the National COVID-19 Vaccination Drive launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister today. Further, even during this difficult COVID-19 period, the Panchayats are actively taking up the People’s Plan Campaign launched on 2nd October 2020 and so far Gram Sabha meetings of over 2.30 Lakh Gram Panchayats have been held and about 1.62 Lakh Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs) approved. The GPDPs approved during the Gram Sabha are entered into the planning module of eGramSwaraj where the resource envelope is also made available. Ministry has also launched a geospatial planning application called Gram Manchitra in Oct 2019 as a decision support system for GPDP. So, it is clear that the PRIs as institutions of local governance have taken root and their role is now well recognized.
He stated that as on date over 1.7 Lakh Gram Panchayats have been registered on the Public Finance Management System (PFMS) and over 1.45 Lakh Gram Panchayats have commenced digital payments of all funds released under the 15th Finance Commission. In order to address the concerns of Central Finance Commissions regarding non availability of audited accounts of the Panchayats, the Ministry launched the AuditOnline application on 15th April, 2020. Training of all auditing bodies in States has been held and currently online audit of about 70,000 Gram Panchayats is underway. Audit of over 9900 Gram Panchayats of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Goa have already been completed. From 2021–22 100% Gram Panchayats have to be audited using AuditOnline. These steps coupled with Social Audit will further strengthen the financial management system and increase transparency and accountability of the Panchayats.
He stated that it is now clear that the foundation for further strengthening PRIs has been laid and these are now bearing fruit. Capacity building of elected PRI functionaries is being undertaken on a massive scale under the Scheme of Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA). Digital technology is being extensively used. The role of NIC in development of the software applications has been outstanding. The Ministry is working with all stakeholders, and we are hopeful that with their cooperation we will be able to overcome challenges.
“While efforts on digitalisation and bringing transparency have been going on for years, the real progress happened only over the last few years in terms of digitalisation, connectivity and most importantly electronic tagging and tracking of funds being given to Panchayati Raj Institutions under various schemes,” said Shri Sameer Kochhar, Chairman, SKOCH Group.
The following are the initiatives of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj for strengthening e-Governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions to enable them to discharge their mandated functions effectively while facilitating transparency, accountability and robust service delivery:
The launch and implementation of SVAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) Scheme has been one of the milestone and major steps ahead towards ensuring socio-economic empowerment of the rural masses with overriding objective of making the rural inhabitant self-reliant. SVAMITVA Scheme aims to provide an integrated property validation solution for rural India, engaging the latest drone surveying technology, for demarcating the inhabitant land in rural areas. Under the SVAMITVA Scheme, the first ever exercise undertaken to carry out property survey of all villages to provide Record of Rights to millions of rural property owners of inhabited area by issuing property card to them for their immovable residential property. This is expected to pave the way to use their property as a financial asset for availing loans and other financial benefits from banks as in the case in towns and cities. Besides, this will ensure modernised and digitised land records for an easier and efficient method of maintaining and updating the land records and bring transparency in the land records management system.
In order to strengthen e-Governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), e-GramSwaraj application has been developed with amalgamating the functionalities of currently available applications in the Panchayat Enterprise Suit (PES) under e-Panchayat Mission Mode Project (MMP). The application subsumes the electronic fund management system (e-FMS) applications comprising of PlanPlus, ActionSoft, PRIASoft and National Asset Directory (NAD) along with the Area Profiler Application with Local Government Directory (LGD) acting as the underlying Panchayat directory. e-GramSwaraj application provides single window with the complete profile of the Gram Panchayat, including Sarpanch and Panchayat Secretary details, demographic details of Panchayat, details of Panchayat Finances, asset details, activities taken up through Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP), Mission Antyodaya survey reports etc. The application aims to bring in more transparency, thus strengthening the e-Governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) across the country through decentralized planning, process reporting and work-based accounting. Furthermore, the application provides a platform for effective monitoring.
On-line Monitoring Systems of Central Finance Commission (CFC) Funds Flow & Proper Utilisation
The key focus areas of Ministry of Panchayati Raj over the last few years has been to track the fund flow of the Central Finance Commission grants and also to ensure timely payments on real-time basis to the service providers in the Panchayats. The Online Payment Module (erstwhile PRIASoft-PFMS Interface (PPI)) is one of its kind whereby Gram Panchayats are carrying out online payments to the vendors and service providers. The main objective of introducing such a module is to have a sound financial management system in the Panchayats leading to their greater credibility and image. IT based solutions like the PRIASoft – PFMS interface for making all payments under CFC grants and Mobile app – mActionSoft has been developed to enable PRIs upload geo-tagged photos of the works/assets created out of CFC.
The Fifteenth Finance Commission has prescribed for preparation of online audited accounts of the RLBs. In this regard, MoPR has conceptualized and developed an application called “AuditOnline” for online audit of Panchayat accounts in order to strengthening the transparency and accountability at grassroots level. It allows for online audit of Panchayat accounts and records detailed information about internal and external audit. It not only facilitates the auditing of accounts but also provisions for maintaining digital audit records pertaining to audit that has been carried out. This application encompasses to streamline the process for audit inquiries, draft local audit reports, draft audit paragraphs etc. The Audit Online would be able to be integrated in tandem with the PPI, for easy flow of accounting related information. The AuditOnline application was launched on 15th April 2020, by Secretary, MoPR through a video conference with all States.
In order to familiarize the State PRI and Audit Departments to the working of the application, it has been decided that at least a minimum of 20% of the PRIs in every State would be audited by Audit Online on pilot basis for auditing of the accounts for FY 2019–2020. During the next year, i.e. for FY 2020–21, Audit Online would be fully scaled up to cover 100% of the PRIs.
ServicePlus – a versatile and secure solution for service delivery – makes all Government services accessible to the common man in his/her locality, through common service delivery outlets, and ensure efficiency, transparency, and reliability of such services at affordable costs to realize the basic needs of the common man.
Gram Manchitra – Geo-Spatial Planning Application
Gram Manchitra is a Spatial Planning Application for facilitating and supporting Gram Panchayat users to perform planning at Gram Panchayat level with the use of geo spatial technology. ‘Real time’ monitoring of development work implementation status and progress of execution of various schemes can be easily tracked.
About the SKOCH Challenger Award
The SKOCH Challenger Awards are distinctive for its approach of selection of awardees, which is not based on the nomination but on discovery. The SKOCH Challenger Award is considered India’s Highest Independent Honour and is conferred after exhaustive research and expert evaluations. The SKOCH Challenger Awards acknowledge people, projects and institutions that go the extra mile to make India a better nation.