Indicted Mansa welfare officer still on the job
Eight months after the Sutlej Gramin Bank detected fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 36.56 lakh meant for various welfare schemes by the Mansa district welfare officer (DWO), the Punjab government is yet to take action against the accused.chandigarh Updated: Oct 18, 2012 11:51 IST
Eight months after the Sutlej Gramin Bank detected fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 36.56 lakh meant for various welfare schemes by the Mansa district welfare officer (DWO), the Punjab government is yet to take action against the accused.
The officer, Kuldeep Singh, was found guilty of financial irregularities such as withdrawing lakhs of rupees from welfare funds meant for poor students' scholarships or the Shagun scheme, and fraudulently opening bank accounts and transferring funds from one account to another, including the savings account that he opened in the DWO's name.
"Kuldeep was indirectly getting payments of cheques issued to beneficiaries under welfare schemes of your department, through illegal collection by our Mansa branch office," then bank chairman KJS Dhillon wrote in his communiqué to the Scheduled Caste/Backward Class (SC/BC) welfare department. He also suspected that the officer had misused these funds.
The letter was sent to the director, welfare, HS Nanda in February for a thorough inquiry at the departmental level so that the bank could also take appropriate follow-up action.
After the bank highlighted the irregularities, the department initiated a detailed inquiry, conducted by JS Saini, deputy controller, finance and accounts. The inquiry indicted Kuldeep for financial irregularities. Kuldeep is the tehsil welfare officer having the additional charge of DWO.
However, the department kept mum over several queries raised by the bank, including: Is the DWO/DSSO (district social security officer) authorised to open savings or current accounts? Is the DWO/DSSO authorised by the department to withdraw or deposit cash in bank accounts? Did the Mansa DWO/DSSO follow the procedure laid down by the department for opening and operating savings and current accounts?
According to the department's fact-finding inquiry report sent to the bank, "Though financial rules have been violated (by the DWO), looking at the specified cases of opening of accounts and withdrawing cash amounts, but no embezzlement of funds is apparent."
The inquiry officer did not even include any document in support of his argument, such as the list of beneficiaries in the name of whom funds were withdrawn under various welfare schemes by the DWO.
When contacted, the director, welfare, said the file had already been sent to the government at the level of secretary, welfare, R Venkatratnam "for appropriate action against the officer.
"Any action against a gazetted officer such as the DWO can be taken at the secretary level," he said.
Nanda, in his initial sharp reaction to the bank's letter in March, had even proposed suspending and replacing Kuldeep. Venkatratnam had then brushed aside the recommendation for suspension of the accused on the plea of seeking a thorough probe report first before any such action.
HT is in possession of documents in which the director's recommendation to suspend the DWO was turned down at the level of the secretary, welfare.
In February, the bank's vigilance cell had also started a probe into the role of certain bank officials, including the Mansa branch manager, in these shady transactions. The probe findings are awaited.
Bank accounts were fraudulently opened and welfare funds transferred from one account to another through cash or cheques, as revealed by bank statements.
In a glaring example of irregularities, 51 third-party cheques of Rs 15,000 each (Rs 7.65 lakh) meant for Shagun scheme beneficiaries were deposited and the entire amount was soon withdrawn in cash on June 22, 2011.