Mere deployment of resources may not significantly improve sanitation in the country, unless it is backed by a large-scale campaign to bring about behavioural change, the CAG said in its report on the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan.

“The main area of concern noted at the planning stage was the lack of a bottom-up approach. Gram panchayats were not linked with district plans. Apart from this, there was delay in transfer of funds to implementing agencies,” the report said. The audit was for the period 2009-10 to 2013-14.

The Centre launched the Central Rural Sanitation Programme in 1986 and renamed it Total Sanitation Programme in 1999. It again renamed it Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan in April 2012.

The CAG also found that the targets fixed by State governments were unrealistic.

Additionally, there was a high incidence of defunct toilets due to poor quality construction, non-availability of water, and financial and behavioural constraints.

“Information and communication campaigns were undertaken as more of a fund utilisation exercise, without any conscious effort to create the required awareness at the community level,” it added.

The auditor found six cases of misappropriation of funds, amounting to ₹2.28 crore, in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Odisha.

Cases of suspected misappropriation of ₹25.33 crore were also noted in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Manipur.

Funds diverted “Scheme funds amounting to ₹283.12 crore were diverted and utilised for purposes such as advance to staff, creation of capital assets, leave salary pension contribution, purchase of vehicles and office sanitation in 13 States,” the report noted.

The auditor has recommended data integrity as the only way to provide a reliable, periodic status check and timely remedial measures.

Convergence with related programmes like National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), and an effective mechanism for independent evaluations are key for the success of the Swachh Bharat mission, it added.