Stung by the fodder scam, the animal husbandry department has moved from pen and paper, to click and portal. Department officials now upload all financial details on the website. “Accounts of all treasury offices are now maintained digitally and monitored every month by headquarters,’’ said an official.
The department started the process of computerization in 2002 and ten years later went totally digital. “Under the e-governance programme, all treasury offices were given the digital edge to maintain transparency,” said Dr Bipin Khalko, AHD deputy director (planning).
No chances are being taken by a department that lay at the heart of a scam that has sent two powerful chief ministers behind bars. Says Khalko, “We now take monthly reports from each treasury office and put them on the department’s website. Details of all allotments and orders are also uploaded and can be viewed by anyone.”
If earlier, money was stolen with impunity, now each penny is being counted. Spending has become a cautious affair. Against a budget of Rs. 204 crore for this fiscal, the department has spent only Rs. 38.52 crore till August 31, 2013.
The fodder scam also became a catalyst of change. The department has clear-cut instructions to purchase fodder only from the Bihar State Co-operative Milk Producers’ Federation Limited (COMPFED). Besides, the AHD has stopped direct distribution of cattle among the beneficiaries at subsidized rate. The department now invites applications and scrutinizes them. Subsidized amounts are deposited in the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. The infamous Chaibasa treasury which was looted of Rs. 37.7 crore in 1995-96 too runs an online operation.Abu Bakr Siddique, deputy commissioner of West Singhbhum, where the scam was first unearthed 17 years back, says, “The emphasis is on transparency." The fake bills have instead given way to a unique code for every transaction that is then shared with the finance department, the accountant general’s office, the deputy commissioner and other district officers. The strict guidelines have made the common farmer unhappy. “The paper work has increased. Every document is checked. How can we illiterates cope up with the complicated government methods,” asks Billi Pahariya, a beneficiary of the AHD’s goat farming scheme for primitive tribal groups.
But for the animal husbandry department, this is only a small cost compared to the ignominy it has had to go through.