The article critically analysis the Management Information System (MIS) of MGNREGA.
- The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is a pioneering livelihood security programme and a great example of proactive disclosure of information through its Management Information System (MIS).
- It is the first transaction-based real-time system for any public works programme in the country that is available in the public domain.
- There has been a digitisation of all the processes in MGNREGA — right from a worker registering demand for work, to work allotment, to finally getting wages for completed works.
- Another notable feature of the MIS is the availability of information through online reports at various levels of disaggregation.
- This has enabled any citizen to monitor the implementation of the programme and has consequently charted a new paradigm of transparency since the enactment of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
- While this system is certainly a great feather in the cap of a transparent democracy, it is critical to understand its current shortcomings and possible ways to improve its functioning.
- The MIS is accessible only from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Indian Standard Time. This is a huge impediment for collaborative work across time zones.
- It does not provide any data dictionary. A data dictionary is a repository of all the names of variables/columns used in various reports, containing a brief explanation of its meanings.
- The nomenclature of the column names in the online reports is not consistent. The same column name is labelled differently in different reports.
- Some obvious worker-centric links in the data structure are missing. For example, On the MIS, there is no clear link between the two crucial pieces such as unique job card number and Funds Transfer Order (FTO). As such it becomes difficult to follow the trail of each job card holder from the time of work demanded to getting the wages.
Passing the baton of accountability
- While computerisation of all transactions is a welcome move, officials are passing the baton of accountability. One should be mindful that an information system doesn’t end up controlling the legal rights.
- There are several situations when a written request for work by a worker is not entered in the MIS till funds for work allocation are made available from the Centre. This is illegal as the Act mandates provision of work within a stipulated time of requesting for it.
- Similarly, the generation of the FTO is withheld till funds for wage payments are released.
- There are other instances when the FTO is not generated if a worker fails to furnish his or her Aadhaar number.
- There are other such examples illustrating how the IT infrastructure becomes a tool prioritising administrative needs as opposed to being a programme enabler.
- The MIS is a powerful mechanism to have an evidence-based discourse for monitoring basic services. But a governance framework for the MIS needs to be put in place that lays out the minimum standards and accountability of the Ministry managing the system.
- Such a framework must be built in consultation with all concerned parties and should follow the provisions of the law (both MGNREGA and RTI).
- The system design choices should reflect the values of the worker-centric programme and hence principles need to be followed for compassionate design.
The Management Information System of MGNREGA is a way to providing data on implementation. But to achieve complete transparency it has to overcome several shortcomings. Elucidate.
- Use of MIS in MGNREGA and its benefits.
- Shortcomings of the system with example.
- How to overcome those shortcomings.