The Punjab government has dismissed former Gurdaspur district education officer (DEO) Shindo Sahni for allegedly embezzling funds meant for students' uniform and furniture.
She was last posted as the principal, Government Senior Secondary School, Bassi Kalan, in Hoshiarpur district. To terminate her services, the state government had sought approval of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) in June but was granted a go-ahead on October 10.
A departmental inquiry had held Sahni guilty of ignoring directions of the state project director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), and making centralised purchase of uniform worth Rs. 4.89 crore for more than 1.22 lakh students of Classes 1 to 8 during the academic session 2010-11.
In violation of norms, neither any tenders were placed nor were quotations called from cloth suppliers, the inquiry revealed. The former DEO was charged with overruling departmental instructions with regard to purchasing uniform for all Scheduled Caste (SC) students and girls of general category under the Right to Education Act.
The inquiry revealed that girl students were given unstitched cloth, in violation of the government directions of distributing them after being stitched by the respective Pendu Sikhya Vikas Committees (PSVCs).
Even boys were given readymade uniform which were not of proper measurement. In some blocks, the supply of uniform fell short. All block education officers were required to issue cheques to the suppliers through PSVCs, but the DEO kept the entire amount with her and made direct payments to companies namely Elite Tube Pvt Ltd and Karan Enterprises, the inquiry suggested.
Moreover, no stock register was maintained in any of the blocks. The uniform were distributed in April when the students of Class 8 advanced to the next class and became ineligible for the benefit. Also, no student in the district got woolen caps or sweaters, hence a grant of about `2 crore was embezzled.
The inquiry also unearthed irregularities in the purchase of school furniture under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) scheme. Sahni had reportedly impressed upon school heads to purchase furniture from Gobind Impes, Garha Road, Jalandhar, and Naresh Steel Furniture, Dera Bassi, in violation of the government guidelines that everything should be purchased through PSVCs.
A chargesheet was issued to Sahni in June 2012, but she did not file any reply at which the government had initiated an inquiry by retired IAS officer DK Jain.
Jain had submitted his report on December 11, 2012, and Sahni was directed to respond to the charges in March this year. She was also given a chance to personally appear before the inquiry officer to explain her stand. Though she claimed that she did not receive any instructions on purchasing uniform, her claim was dismissed and the process of her dismissal was initiated.
On October 26, Anjali Bhawra, principal secretary, education, signed the dismissal orders, which reached the district education office on Tuesday. The orders stated that recovery of loss caused to the state exchequer would depend on the outcome of the FIR registered against the dismissed officer in Gurdaspur on the basis of the inquiry report.
In question: Gurdaspur DEO Shindo Sahni.
Charged with ignoring directions of the state project director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and purchasing uniform worth Rs. 4.89 crore for more than 1.22 lakh students on her own.
Neither issuing tenders nor calling quotations from cloth suppliers to place order for students' uniform
Not distributing woolen caps and sweaters, hence embezzling about Rs. 2 crore.
Impressing upon school heads to purchase furniture from chosen firms, in violation of the government guidelines that everything should be purchased through PSVCs.
June 2012: Chargesheet issued to Sahni, but she fails to reply at which the government initiates an inquiry by retired IAS officer.
December 11, 2012: IAS officer submits report and Sahni directed to respond to the charges in March this year.
October 26: Education principal secretary Anjali Bhawra signs dismissal orders.
October 29: Dismissal orders reach the district education office.