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Centre claims Kerala govt missed share for Mid-Day Meal Scheme; defers disbursement of funds

The Central government has deferred the disbursement of funds for mid-day meal programme in Kerala citing that the Rs 209 crore spent in 2021–2022 has not been documented on Public Financial Management System (PFMS). Additionally, the state is required to provide Rs 77 crore as its share of the programme. 

Centre claims Kerala govt missed share for Mid-Day Meal Scheme; defers disbursement of funds anr
First Published Sep 9, 2023, 1:23 PM IST

Thiruvananthapuram: The ongoing controversy over the delay in providing funds for the state's mid-day meal programme has Kerala under fire from the Union Ministry of Education. Kerala's share for FY 2021–22 is Rs. 132.90 crore, according to the Union Ministry. Additionally, the state is required to provide Rs 77 crore as its share of the programme. The Public Financial Management System (PFMS), a centralised monitoring system administered by the Union Finance Ministry, claims that the Rs 209 crore spent in 2021–2022 has not been documented.

The ministry further mentioned that it had drawn attention to this issue in a letter it had addressed to the state government on August 8.

Additionally, the state failed to deposit the sum, with interest, in PFMS by August 31. The Centre announced they would not provide more funding this year because the present amount, which includes the state's share, has not yet been used for the programme. However, in the expectation that this fund would be reimbursed later, the state government spent Rs 209 crore, including its share of Rs 77 crore. The Centre finally approved Rs 132 crore in March of this year, after a two-year delay, and made it clear that this would be the payment for 2021–2022.

Education Minister V Sivankutty on Saturday (Sep 9) attributed the financial difficulties schools were having paying for the state's midday food programme on the Centre. He claimed that the Central government had delayed payment by making false justifications.

Sivankutty claimed in a Facebook post that the Union Government frequently uses erroneous justifications to delay or withhold payments to states even after receiving all required documentation, including financial records in the case of the mid-day meal programme.

"The Union Government's failure is the reason for crisis in the distribution of funds related to the mid-day meal scheme. The midday meal scheme is implemented as a central programme. According to the rules, the central government has to provide the states with food grains (rice) and 60 per cent of the operational cost. However, there have been delays in allocating the centre's shares to the states from FY 2021-22, when PFMS (Public Financial Management System) became a part of the scheme."

"As per our understanding, the centre had set aside more than Rs 10,000 crore as its share for the projects to the states and union territories in the current fiscal year. Even though the fiscal year is half through, the central government is yet to release the first instalment of the central share (60 per cent amount) to the states and union territories. So far, only Madhya Pradesh (Rs 156.58 crore) has received funds," his FB post read.

The Minister added, "The central allocation to the state for the current year for running the school mid-day scheme is Rs 284.31 crore. Including the proportionate state share of Rs 163.15 crore, the scheme contribution fixed by the Central Government is Rs 447.46 crore. Since FY 2022-23, the centre's share is received in two instalments. As a result, the state initially receives 60 per cent as the first instalment and the remaining as the second instalment. According to this, the state is bound to receive the initial instalment of Rs 170.59 crores this year. Using the initial investment we could allocate a total of Rs 268.48 crore, including the proportionate state's share of Rs 97.89 crore, to the schools for its expenses till November. We submitted a detailed proposal for the first instalment of central allocation of Rs 170.59 crore and the previous year's appropriation papers were duly submitted to the centre on July 4. However, even after two months of submission of the proposal, the centre is not ready to allocate the share for the scheme."

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