Even as the state vigilance bureau (SVB) has detected an alleged scam of overbilling, running into several lakhs of rupees, by officials of the municipal corporation, the Haryana government is delaying permission to initiate legal proceedings against the erring persons.
The SVB has prima facie found guilty a sanitation contractor “Friends Associates” of Panchkula and officials of the Karnal local body for siphoning off the public money.
The private agency, which was given one-year contract of collection of garbage and cleaning of Model Town area from November 1, 2011, is no longer associated with the corporation.
The alleged financial bungling was exposed by Narinder Sukhan, a resident of Model Town, in February 2012.
He had written to chief secretary PK Chaudhery, who also heads the vigilance department, on July 22 to permit the SVB to begin legal action in the case.
“I was fed up with the poor sanitation conditions of Model Town and my queries under the Right to Information (RTI) revealed large-scale misappropriation of public money in the name of outsourcing the sanitation work,” Sukhan, an advocate and a social activist, told Hindustan Times on Wednesday.
As per the contract (HT has a copy), 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 Rs 10.50 lakh per month to the sanitation contractor through cheques.
As the RTI petitioner grew suspicion on the actual availability of workers engaged in cleaning the locality, he asked for muster roll of the contractor's employees.
As he did not receive any reply from the MC under the RTI, Sukhan approached the then Karnal deputy commissioner Renu S Phulia, the ex-officio commissioner of the MC, in June last year.
Phulia directed the MC to parade all workers of Friends Associates hired for the Model Town area on June 23 last year and list of 57 out of the claimed 160 was handed over by the corporation to the petitioner and the DC.
However, the physical verification revealed that out of the list of 57, eight were absent, while five of them were rickshaw pullers who were allegedly presented 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. There is a need for an in-depth probe to nab the culprits as there are doubts even about those 44 workers as the contractors did not register them for the employees' state insurance (ESI),” he said.
As per the 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 (EO).
Rajesh Bhardwaj, investigating officer (IO) of the SVB, told HT on Wednesday that the state government's nod to lodge a first information report (FIR) was awaited since July this year.
Mayor Renu Bala Gupta said that the EO SS Ahlawat has taken long leave and not approachable on phone.
“I am not aware of the alleged scam as I assumed the mayor's office in July this year. But, I strongly advocate punishing the guilty, if any,” she said.