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Beyond Allocations: Expenditure Flows in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan


23 March 2011

On 28 February 2011, the Union Budget announced a 27 percent hike in allocations for elementary education for the 2011-12 financial year (FY). At 65 percent of the elementary education budget, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) too witnessed a 40 percent hike in allocation, which now stands at Rs. 21,000 crore. This was no surprise – since  2005-06, there has been an over 3-fold increase in GOI allocation and considering SSA is the primary vehicle for delivering the Right To Education (RTE), increased allocations were inevitable.

But are these increased allocations sufficient to ensure the SSA goal that, “every child is in school and learning well”? Crucially, do these increased allocations get spent efficiently and effectively so that resources and expenditure match school needs on the ground? To answer this question, this article undertakes a trend analysis of SSA allocation and expenditure between 2005-06 and 2009-10.[2] Here is what we found:


Expenditure Performance: In the last five years, while allocations have increased significantly, overall expenditure performance has been weak with a large portion of allocated funds remaining unutilised. For example, in 2005-06, 32 percent of SSA funds were not spent, this dropped marginally to 25 percent in 2009-10, leaving an unspent balance of Rs. 6,608 crore for the year.


The extent of the problem can be better examined at the state level. For instance, Uttar Pradesh, which received the largest share of SSA allocations in 2009-10, spent 75 percent of its planned allocations. Similarly, Rajasthan with the fifth highest share of allocation spent 96 percent. Bihar, which saw a nearly five-fold jump in SSA allocation from Rs. 843 crores to Rs. 4,109 crores, saw a ten-fold increase in expenditure, yet its overall expenditure performance remained poor with only 51 percent of planned allocations being spent.


Component-wise Trends: The Right to Education lays importance on the provision of adequate infrastructure facilities in schools (including provision of boundary wall, library, playground, drinking water facility, toilets, additional classrooms, headmaster cum store room etc.) as well as the maintenance of the prescribed Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTR).  A majority of SSA allocations have been earmarked for teacher salary and infrastructure. But past experience with SSA expenditure suggests inefficiencies. For instance, in 2009-10, teacher salary and infrastructure together accounted for 72 percent of overall SSA allocation. However, expenditure performance of these two components has been variable. While expenditure on teacher salaries increased from 63 percent in 2005-06 to 85 percent in 2009-10, for infrastructure, expenditure has actually dropped from 80 percent to about 60 percent. Interestingly, despite the increase in teacher salaries, expenditure incurred on training remains low with only 63 percent of earmarked funds being utilised in 2009-10.


The RTE also has special provisions to ensure that children who have not been admitted to school or have not completed elementary education have the right to receive special training even after fourteen years of age. Here again, past expenditures in SSA shows that allocation and expenditure in these areas have been on the lower side. SSA allocates funds for interventions to mainstream out of school children, remedial teaching as well as inclusive education. However, funds for these special programmes constituted a mere 6 percent of total SSA allocations in 2009-10, down from 9 percent in 2005-06. There has been no real improvement in expenditure performance which has remained constant at about 80 percent.


Delays in Funds Flows: Apart from the problem of spending, there is also a delay in expenditure resulting in a last minute rush to spend funds. In 2008-09, only 37 percent of SSA expenditure was incurred in the first two quarters of the financial year. At the state level, with the exception of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, most states incurred over 50 percent expenditure in the last two quarters. For instance, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, despite being good performers in overall spending capacity, incurred more than 70 percent of their expenditure in the latter half of the year. These delays are also reflected in PAISA’s micro level study of school grants.


So what have we learnt?  It is clear from the above analysis that while allocations have increased, expenditure performance has left a lot to be desired. With India’s schooling system now entering a new phase of implementation under the Right to Education Act (RTE) the current financial architecture requires revamping. Thus, we need to look beyond just allocations and take a closer look at expenditure performance and its translation into outputs on the ground if we are serious about making a tangible difference in education outcomes.



[1] Anirvan Chowdhury is Research Associate with the Accountability Initiative; Avani Kapur is Senior Research and Program Analyst with the Accountability Initiative.

[2] Data has been sourced from the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Portal: www.ssa.nic.in on March 7, 2011.

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