Investigations into the expenditure of funds by certain Red Cross presidents, the deputy commissioners of the respective districts, have shown large-scale misuse and diversion of the society’s funds.
Most such purchases were made for the deputy commissioners’ camp offices, situated at DC residences only, while a huge amount from the Red Cross funds were used by the DCs that should have been borne, if at all, by the state government.
A perusal of records shows that in Patiala, Ludhiana and Sangrur districts, lakhs of rupees of the Red Cross were spent during 2000-6 on buying mobile phones and mobile phone bucks (recharge coupons) for the DCs and their wives, nappies, LPG cylinder refills, “agarbattis”, repairs of Mixi, water purifier, stereo system for cars, air conditioners, furniture and generators, Diet Coke, newspapers and magazines, hotel/restaurant bills, crockery, ink for printer cartridges, New Year greeting cards, bouquets and cushions.
Some more examples: in Sangrur, the Red Cross funds were used for celebration of Diwali festival in 2002 and Rs 4,400 was paid to Ranbir Club for the visit of Financial Commissioner (Revenue) to the DC office on August 11, 2004.
In 2001-2, the Red Cross spent Rs 59,219 for flower decoration of War Heroes. In 2002-3, Rs 45,000 was spent as “donation for election purpose”. Can the Red Cross donate for “election purpose”? When the DC visited the Central jail on May 2, 2001, Rs 4,000 was charged to Red Cross for photography, while another Rs 7,000 was paid by the Red Cross for mementoes.
The Sangrur branch paid Rs 77,280 during 2001-2 alone for purchasing 35 mobile phone bucks (recharge coupons) for “President (DC), Madam chairperson (wife of DC), Honorary Secretary, Assistant Commissioner (Under Training) and SDM, Sangrur”.
An expenditure of Rs 70 debited on November 28, 2003, pertaining to “Good Day biscuits”, “Napee” , “Diet tean”, “The News” is proof of the personal expenses being debited to Red Cross, said Hitender Jain of Resurgence India.
The Sangrur records also reveal payment of thousands of rupees towards food and refreshment bills to Ranbir Club, Ranbir Restaurant, DC office canteen contractor and Mohan Continental and Chohan Continental in Patiala. The branch had been spending several lakhs on car maintenance and POL on Red Cross as well as DC’s official cars.
In 2005-6, the Patiala Red Cross branch bore Rs 1.2 lakh per annum as horticulture maintenance charges for the Mini Secretariat and another Rs 30,000 per annum as maintenance of toilets at Mini Secretariat. On March 17, 2006, the Red Cross spent Rs 11,570 as “decoration expenses” for the stage for the Chief Minister’s conference, while on March 10, 2006, eight wreaths worth Rs 1,200 were purchased by the Red Cross for a person who committed self-immolation.
The branch also purchased two “rumalas” at a cost of Rs 4,200 for Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) for being offered at Gurdwara Sahib on May 9, 2006.
Interestingly, on June 5, 2006, the Patiala branch bought 106 metres’ cloth worth Rs 19,948 for curtains for the DC camp office. Later, another Rs 2,955 was spent on stitching of the curtains for DC’s camp office. The moot question: is the Patiala DC’s camp office so big that it would require 106-metre cloth?
There are records of frequent advance money paid by the Ludhiana Red Cross to the DC office staff for expenses at the camp office. For example, in March 2004 alone, the Red Cross gave Rs 21,000 as advance for the camp office expenses.
While the state government provides an official car to every DC, there is no reason why a charitable organisation like Red Cross should provide a car to the deputy commissioner or his wife. The Ludhiana branch has provided two cars with drivers to the DC and his wife while the Sangrur and Patiala branches have provided one car to the DC. In addition, the Sangrur branch has also provided a car (PB 28A-0017) to the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Sangrur.
The records show that some vehicles provided by the Red Cross were used for personal chores of the DC and his family, including outstation tours, for which no recovery was made. As per the Log Book of a car (PB-13-F-0006) belonging to Sangrur Branch and used by the DC’s wife, visits were made by the chairperson to Chandigarh on April 3-4, 2005 (total 324 km) and to Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur and Chandigarh on April 30 and May 1, 2005 (total 594 km). But as per the ledger account, there is no recovery of the expenses for the documented usage of the car, which for all purposes appear to be of a private nature. The monthly fuel bill of a single car is sometimes as high as Rs 60,000.
The accounts details of Sangrur also reveal that the Red Cross paid Rs 7,000 to Sarv Telecommunications, Pitampura, New Delhi, for purchase of NT (new telephone) and its installation charges. Why should Sangrur Red Cross spend money for installing a telephone in New Delhi?