The Haryana Vigilance Bureau (VB) has registered a case against Karnal municipal corporation (MC) officials and a private company for an alleged scam of overbilling running into several lakhs of rupees.
A local resident has exposed the scam using the Right To Information (RTI) Act.
Inspector Satnarayan Sharma told Hindustan Times on Thursday that a first-information report (FIR) was lodged at the bureau police station in Rohtak on Wednesday.
A case was booked under Sections 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
"Before lodging the FIR, the VB investigated into a complaint in this regard. Convinced with an initial report that it was a fit case to initiate criminal proceedings against the accused, a case was registered," said Sharma, designated as the investigating officer (IO) in the case.
He said that in the complaint, names of chief sanitary inspector BS Kataria (now retired), sanitary inspector Chaman Lal, MC clerk Mahavir Singh and Panchkula-based firm Friends Associates were mentioned.
"In the initial inquiry they were allegedly involved siphoning off public money. We will now investigate into the case to fix legal responsibility. More names may crop during the investigation," Sharma said.
On November 1, 2011, the Karnal MC had hired Friends Associates for the collection of garbage and cleaning of Model Town area. The firm is no longer in service with the municipality. Hindustan Times had reported the case on September 5.
The alleged financial bungling was exposed by Narinder Sukhan, a resident of Model Town here, in February 2012. He had written to chief secretary PK Chaudhery, who also heads the vigilance department, on July 22 to permit the VB begin legal action in the case.
"I was fed up with the poor sanitation conditions of Model Town and my queries under the RTI Act revealed large-scale misappropriation of public money in the name of outsourcing the sanitation work," Sukhan, an advocate and social activist, told Hindustan Times.
As per the contract (HT has a copy of it), the MC had awarded the sanitation contract to Friends Associates with a condition of engaging 140 sweepers, 12 drivers for transporting garbage, six supervisors and two JCB machine drivers.
Between March and June 2012, the MC paid about `10.5 lakh per month to the contractor through cheques. As the RTI petitioner grew suspicion on the actual availability of workers engaged in cleaning the locality, he asked for the muster roll of the contractor's employees.
As he did not receive any reply from the MC under the RTI Act, Sukhan approached the-then Karnal deputy commissioner (DC) and ex-officio commissioner of the MC Renu S Phulia in June last year.
She directed the MC to parade all workers of Friends Associates hired for the Model Town area on June 23 and a list of 57 out of the claimed 160 was handed over by the corporation to the petitioner and the DC.
The physical verification, however, revealed that out of the list of 57, eight were absent and five of them were rickshaw-pullers who were allegedly shown as sanitation workers.
"The MC was issuing payments for 160 workers, while only 44 were found present during the physical verification done in the presence of the-then DC. It calls for an in-depth investigation to arrest the culprits as there are doubts about those 44 workers as the contractors did not register them for the Employees' State Insurance (ESI)," he said.
As per rules, the chief sanitary inspector and his two officials sign papers before recommending for monthly payment. The payment cheque is signed by the executive officer .