Chirmiri town mayor Damru Behra (40), who doubles as an empanelled agent of UTI Asset Management Company, has allegedly used his executive powers to invest a sum of money sanctioned for a road project in a scheme of the financial institution.
As part of Gaurav Path—a scheme to build two-lane roads in the heart of major cities — the Chhattisgarh government had, in 2009, sanctioned Rs. 4.50 crore for Chirmiri town, about 350 km north of Raipur.
Behra, who belongs to the BJP, got Rs. 2.50 crore of this approved amount invested in the UTI-MIS plan in early 2010, a decision the state government said was against all guidelines.
The Rs. 2.50 crore has, since, been retrieved from the fund manager over a period going back to December 2011. “The mayor had a vested interest (in making this investment) but the (municipal) commissioners were (wrong in following) his unacceptable advice. I have asked for the files. Government funds cannot be invested in private shares or mutual funds as they are risky,” urban administration minister Amar Agrawal told Hindustan Times. Two municipal commissioners who came in succession invested R50 lakh, followed by Rs. 2 crore.
They have been served show-cause notice for this. They could not be approached for comments. “The investment led to a loss of interest of R15 lakh.” Behra put on a brave front.
“It was at the initiative of the commissioners of the corporation that a suitable plan, an open-ended plan of UTI-MIS, as good as a savings account, for investing Rs. 2.50 crore was advised (by the mayor) in early 2010. Being mayor, I didn’t charge any consultation fee,” he told Hindustan Times.
Behra has been a mutual fund advisor and investment expert for the past 15 years.
The present Chirmiri commissioner, AK Haldar, told Hindustan Times that the sanctioned amounts should be deposited only in nationalised banks, preferably as fixed deposits. The Corporation Act says approval from the mayor and mayor-in-council is essential for investment more than Rs. 10 lakh.