An official probe has revealed a 5-crore Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) g rant embezzlement scam in the constituency of rural development minister Surjit Singh Rakhra.
The scam has surfaced in Samana, constituency of Rakhra, and in Patran, the constituency represented by SAD MLA Vaninder Kaur Loomba.
Rakhra claimed that he had ordered the ‘secret’ probe after he came to know of the scam.
The rural development ministry utilises the grants under the MNREGA, a central government scheme to provide work to the unemployed. Funds are utilised on development works where the unemployed get the labour work. The preliminary investigation report submitted by additional deputy commissioner (development) Rajesh Tripathi has pointed to ir re gularities amounting to 5 crore in the works done under the MNREGA.
He has, prima facie, held Samana block development panchayat officer (BDPO) Dinesh Vashisht and Patran BDPO Malwinder Singh, guilty of lapses in the purchase of materials and utilisation of funds.
Bricks were purchased at almost double the price of the government rates, water tankers were bought at almost twice the market rate, and some works that didn’t fall under the purview of MNREGA were undertaken. The scam took place during the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, when most of the government machinery was busy in the election process.
Sources say that according to the MNREGA norms, 60% funds are utilised for labour component and 40% for buying the materials. However, in this case, the officials changed the norms to make money. “Yes, prima facie large-scale irregularities have been found in the Rs. 5-crore works under MNREGA in Samana and Patran. I have submitted the inquiry report to the director, rural development, for further action,” Tripathi said.
Rakhra admitted the MNREGA funds were misused. “Though development works took place, the officials didn’t follow the norms. There were reports of embezzlement also, thus I had asked the ADC to conduct a preliminary inquiry, the report of which was submitted,” Rakhra said, adding that now a detailed inquiry would be conducted.