The state Department of Education is caught in a bind with a change in the entire system for distributing funds to self-help groups, as it deals with a slew of late filing allegations. money into the midday meal workers’ account. SHG promoters in five sub-districts have warned that they will not be able to provide midday meals if the department fails to pay their due dues. In some cases, the pending amount reaches several thousand dollars.
Government officials have a different story to tell explaining what led to the delay, which they say is a temporary phase. “The delay in the release of funds is due to two main reasons. The central government changed the entire fund distribution system in March in which the department was asked to switch to the Public Financial Management System (PFMS) portal. Second, the training of the PFMS Monitoring Cell was a complete farce, and our officials trained to understand the system,” an Education Department official said.
Under the PFMS, the department had to open a new Zero Balance account under a single nodal agency, unlike in the past where invoices from food suppliers were sent directly to the accounts department of the Goa government for approval. “After opening a zero-balance account, we opened block-level accounts, etc. The Indian government, Ministry of Education and PM Poshan’s department have continued to issue circulars to the State Department to comply with the new circulars. We had to learn a lot as this is a new system and no proper training has been provided by the PFMS monitoring cell except some online… This despite the fact that our staff visits his center located in the planning and statistics office several times in expectation of proper training,” revealed the source.
Education officials got to know how the portal works through personal practice two months ago. “At that time, we received the first installment of Rs 7.8 crore which is also unusual as every year the funds are received in May,” the source revealed. Most of the payment has been made to food suppliers, while another significant portion of dues will be settled by November 4.
The Goa State Commission for the Rights of the Child has intervened in the current standoff between self-help groups and the Department of Education, fearing that if the problem is not resolved there will be chance that school attendance will drop in the coming days.
“The commission recognizes the efforts of the Directorate of Education to expedite and resolve this problem, but the facts mentioned in the report are alarming and point to very serious problems that require long-term political intervention. More than two decades have passed since the midday meal became part of the daily routine in schools across the state. During this long period of time, the procedures should have stabilized, but obstacles continue to arise,” Commission President Peter Borges said in a letter to the Department for Education. He requested a “compliance report” within 15 days.