Despite repeated communications by the Union ministry of rural development, the MP government has failed to respond to the latest action initiated in Rs 13.68 crore hand-tools kit purchase scam under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) that broke in Chhindwara district in year 2008, documents of the ministry show.
According to the documents, the ministry's communiqué to explain the absolving of the then collector of Chhindwara district (Nikunj Srivastava) of the charges of irregularities and corruption in the matter has also been ignored by the state government.
Srivastava, an IAS officer, is presently on deputation to Central government and is officer on special duty (OSD) to Union minister of mines Narendra Singh Tomar.
The MNREGS division of the ministry has during last six months written repeatedly to the MP government seeking information on the latest action in the scam, including disciplinary action against the officials involved, and also to furnish the report of special audit carried out into the scam.
However, the government to failed to furnish the report, a letter written by the director of MNREGS division of ministry to the director of Central Vigilance Commission in October this year shows (copy of letter available with HT).
Also, speaking to HT over telephone, the director of MNREGS of rural development ministry Dhruv Kumar Singh confirmed that no response had been received from the state government as yet.
The letter by the director to CVC mentions 'the state was asked to investigate the matter through suitable mechanism and take action against Shri Nikunj Srivastava accordingly, if found guilty, but it appears no further investigation was carried out in this case and Shrivastava was absolved of the charges of irregularities/corruption without any basis'.
Srivastava and the then zilla panchayat chief executive officer (CEO) BM Sharma were absolved of the charges in 2012 by state government. No inquiry was conducted against the former while a departmental inquiry was done against Sharma, the letter mentions.
Despite attempts Srivastava and commissioner of MP NREGS Council Seema Sharma could not be contacted. Additional commissioner Pradyumna Sharma said that since the general administration department was involved, and matter was also under inquiry of Lokayukta, response to the Union government would be possible only after entire matter is properly examined.
However, activist Ajay Dubey, one of the complainants in the matter, said recently, while presenting his department's report card on completion of one year of government, the state rural development minister Gopal Bhargava had claimed that no corruption cases was pending in his department, when such a major scam had remained unaccounted for.
Bhargava, when contacted, said the inquiry in the matter had been completed on part of his department, but since IAS and state administrative services officials (the then collector and zilla panchayat CEO respectively) were involved, the action is to be initiated by the general administration department.
"Now that the officer (Srivastava) is on Central deputation, further administrative issues arise," the minister said. Bhargava conceded that rules were violated in the case as the tool kits were purchased in a centralised manner.