On July 7, the Ministry of Education wrote to the West Bengal Government, flagging “financial anomalies” in the implementation of the mid-day meal scheme.
The Ministry in its letter said that funds earmarked for mid-day meal scheme (PM POSHAN) are being used for a different purpose. Sources of the Education Ministry, on the condition of anonymity, told media that a dormant Bank account has been used for the transfer of funds for state elections.
“Senior officer of the ministry has sought a report from the West Bengal Government. I am directed to refer to a copy of the account transfer transcript from the designated bank account of the mid-day meal programme, Paschim Bardhman. A bare perusal of the fund transfer suggests that funds earmarked for Mid-Day Meal under PM POSHAN are being used for a different purpose,” they said.
They further said that, however, the papers made available on WhatsApp by the state officials suggest that a dormant bank account has been used to transfer funds for state elections. “It may be agreed that this is contrary to the principles of financial management as distinct bank accounts are to be used for distinct purposes,” the official letter to the education department of WB read.
Further, Ministry of Education sources told media that it is a possibility that allotments under PMPY in the past i.e., pre-PFMS days, are being used for purposes other than the PM POSHAN (Mid-Day Meal) scheme.
The Central Government, in its letter to the WB government, said, “In this context, it may be appreciated that in January 2022 at the time of submission of proposal for release of 2nd installment during 2021-22, the state government of West Bengal had submitted an undertaking certifying that Government of West Bengal has notified the Single Nodal Agency (SNA) and opened a Single Nodal Account of PM Poshan Scheme. It was also certified that the entire unspent amount available in the Bank account of all the implementing agencies of the aforesaid scheme has been transferred to the Single Nodal Account of the Scheme concerned. It was further certified that all other accounts of implementing agencies down the ladder have been closed/converted into zero balance accounts.”
The letter has sought a detailed factual report on the “serious” financial anomalies, which include an “inexplicable balance amount” to the tune of Rs 4,174 crore in the single nodal account meant for disbursing PM POSHAN funds.
Education Ministry further added that the total funds in the SNA’s account was Rs 1542.17 crore on March 31 in 2022 while in 2023-24 the state treasury has transferred only Rs 387.35 crore to SNA.
“As on 4 July 2023, the SNA account has a huge and inexplicable balance amount of Rs 4174.28 crore. It is not clear as to how the balance in the SNA account has increased from Rs 1542.17 crore to Rs 4174.28 crore while State Government certified in January 2022 that the entire unspent amount available in the bank account of all the Implementing agencies has been transferred in Single Nodal Account. This appears to be a highly incongruous situation, more so, in the context of state Govt’s above said undertaking,” the Ministry added.
Also, Education Ministry has further asked to state department to examine the transcript of the account since the time the account has gone dormant and satisfy yourself that there is no miscalculation of the facts.
It also said that this is an instance of only one district and similar bank accounts may exist in other districts for which necessary directions may be given. “In view of the above-enumerated facts and circumstances, a detailed factual report with respect to serious financial anomalies may be sent immediately,” Ministry sources told the media.