Calculations identical to those undertaken in PDS evaluations show that, far from having low leakage, the NREGA programme is possibly even more corrupt than the PDS system. These calculations are based on the NSS 2009-10 labour and employment survey, a survey that contained special and additional questions meant for monitoring and evaluating the NREGA programme. [Link]
And then goes onto to quote figures that show that the NREGA was a highly corruption prone scheme.
There is no prizes for guessing who made the money as part of the scheme. By and large, it had to be the middlemen - and the middlemen are not who you think - bureaucrats and low level officers, though perhaps they are there as well. There are other types of middlemen here, like NGOs. See this report here. Here is another one where Lok Sewaks/Lok Karmi appointed are from NGOs.
So, while some money reached the beneficiaries, along the way NREGA helped those who helped the Congress ecosystem alive - obviously middlemen were connected to the powers that be and the ideologies that be. And as they made money, they also kept their ecosystems warm by not allowing others into it, presumably. And in general, the BJP ruled states implemented it much more seriously than the Congress ruled states.
Net, net, the NREGA was a leaky bucket. Money was poured into it. Various middlemen made money out of it - they were kept happy and they in turn kept the regime happy - and the ultimate beneficiaries made nothing. And they voted with their feet.
Now, take a look at the scams - Coal Scam, 2G scam or any other scam. It was another NREGA style scam at another level. Someone at the top identifies a bucket. Holes are drilled into the bucket in terms of either rules favouring certain parties (2G) or in terms of giving off benefits to 'people close to the powers that be' - and they in turn kept the regime happy - and the ultimate benefeciaries (the exchequer) was left bleeding.
The media who should have reported this was bought into it by similar means.
About 60 journalists stayed in government provided subsided housing (the curious case of the dog that did not bark?).
Some journalists (almost all pro-Congress) received state awards.
Manmohan Singh took 34 journalists with him on his foreign visit.
And who is paying for all this? People like you and me, the taxpayers.
And apart from this is a long list of friends and relatives who had plum postings in various official capacities. The latest is CBI chief who has been asked to recuse himself because instead of investigating, he was helping the accused in the probe.
Bank appointments were given to cronies - which is now being cleaned up.
Governor positions were given to tainted politicians so as to get gubernatorial immunity - here is one example.
I suppose I can go on and on. Nothing was spared by the UPA. Essentially it was running a giant NREGA while a lot of people made money out of the government.
QED: UPA was one giant NREGA at every level...