In August, chief parliamentary secretary NK Sharma blew the whistle on the inflated fuel bill scam in the Punjab government, following which more than 170 employees attached with ministers, chief parliamentary secretaries (CPSes), the chief minister and the deputy chief minister were shifted.
However, even though these employees allegedly siphoned off crores of rupees by forging bills and tampering with vehicles’ mileage meters, no punitive action was taken against them and no move was made to even recover the money they had made in the process all these years.
“The two employees attached with me who were found presenting forged bills and getting these reimbursed were ready to pay back the money. But no one seemed to be ready to take any action against them. I finally surrendered my official car and have shifted to using my private vehicle,” said Sharma.
He claimed that he noticed that though he was not using his car more than 100 km a day travelling between Dera Bassi and Chandigarh, his monthly petrol bill was almost Rs 2 lakh, reaching more than Rs 54 lakh for 16 months.
“I realised what was going on and gave a complaint to the transport department to get the authenticity of the bills probed. The bills were found to be forged. The two employees were suspended. They even came up to me admitting their mistake and offered to return the money to the department,” he added.
Other than transferring more than 170 employees, who could have been involved in the scam, the state transport authorities made no move to expand the probe beyond Sharma’s employees and asses how much loss these employees had caused to the exchequer.
While the transport department authorities have no answer to this, sources say the matter was hushed up to “save” the ministers and the CPSes from probe. “Even if the ministers did not know that their monthly petrol bills are so high, they would have been liable to questioning,” said an official of the department. The department, however, claims that following Sharma’s complaint, they have a foolproof system of fuel usage and billing applicable to all ministers and CPSes.
“Apart from limiting the distance travelled to 10,000 km a month, we have instructed the staff attached with the ministers how to fill the log book. We have asked them not to spend anything from their pockets which they can claim later. We give drivers advance and once that is used, more is given. This way we keep tabs on spending,” said Anurag Aggarwal, secretary, transport, Punjab.