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Schoolkids paying the price for audit delays

This story by me was first published in the IIJNM publication The Observer, on Nov 23, 2015. The Observer is the work of print journalism students who report exclusive news stories from Bangalore and the state of Karnataka.

School students across the state have only one school uniform because the finance department has yet to release funds for a second set.

The money for a second uniform is usually released by June but audit issues have led to the five-month delay, according to an official in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a union government scheme that promises universal education.

Students in a Bangalore government school during recess

Students in a Bangalore government school during recess

Meanwhile, children face scolding at school if they turn up in anything other than school uniform and their parents face having to wash and dry a single set in constant rain, with Bangalore receiving more rain in November than it
has since 1916.

The mother of a third-standard student in a Bangalore government primary school said, “My children are new in school, so they have only one set. They wear the same uniform every day. I don’t wash it until the weekend because there is no other option.”

If the children wear anything else because this set has gone for a wash, they get punished, she said.

K. Beena, chief accounts officer, SSA, said that the state finance department has refused to give funds before it finishes its audit process of SSA. When the SSA receives those funds, it will pass it on to schools.

Beena said: “It has been delayed this year. We have asked the state government to release some Rs.100 crore. But
it is still stuck with the finance department.”

One set of uniform for students is provided by the state’s education department, and the second set is given under the SSA project by August every academic year. The first set was given earlier this year by the education department.

Beena added: “By financial year 2014-15, some excess funds had been accumulated by SSA. We surrendered these
excess funds to the finance department in January 2015. But they wanted to have an audit. They said that till this is done, they will not release any funds.”

Correspondence is still going on between the finance department and SSA to resolve the issue, she said.

Arvind Shrivastava, secretary (budget and resources) to the government in the finance department, refused to talk
about the status of the audit.

He said: “It is the SSA’s audit. They should know the status. The auditors go from our side, but it is the SSA’s audit report, and they should share it with the public.”

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Both the central government and the state’s finance department contribute to the SSA funding. But the central government funds reach the SSA only through the state’s finance department. So SSA has received neither the central funds nor the state funds yet, said Beena.

She said: “For the next six months, we will be in a crunch situation because no funds have been released to us.”
She hopes they will receive funds by the end of this month.

In past years, the funds for second sets of uniform reached schools in the beginning of the academic year, by August or September, said Shailaja, principal of a government higher primary school in Bangalore.

She confirmed that this year, funds for the first set of uniform were received by the school, but not for the second set.

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