MGNREGA scam: Local court rebukes Punjab police, rejects closure report
In April 2014, Hindustan Times had exposed the scam involving around Rs 5 crore in the utilisation of MGNREGA funds and rural development grants. It was found that almost 60% of the villages in Samana and Patran blocks of Patiala under MGNREGA received no bricks, cement nor any other material but bills were been passed and payment made.punjab Updated: Aug 07, 2017 11:52 IST
A local court has rejected the closure report filed by the police in the Rs 5 crore Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act (MGNREGA) scam in Samana and Patran blocks of Patiala. The court has also rebuked the police for filing the closure report in a hush-hush manner.
In April 2014, Hindustan Times had exposed the scam involving around Rs 5 crore in the utilisation of MGNREGA funds and rural development grants. Soon after the scam was exposed, then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had shifted Surjit Singh Rakhra from the rural development department to the higher education and public health departments.
It was found that almost 60% of the villages under MGNREGA received no bricks, cement nor any other material but bills were been passed and payment made.
Following the HT expose, a committee headed by deputy controller, finance and accounts of rural development, got two first information reports (FIRs) registered against two block development and panchayat officers (BDPOs) — Dinesh Kumar Vashishat, the then BDPO, Samana, and Malwinder Singh, the then BDPO, Patran, on charges of cheating and corruption.
While the rural development department listed it as a scam, Punjab Police filed a closure report in the case under political pressure in 2015. However, the then deputy director, rural development department, Jagwinderjit Singh, opposed the clean chit and cancelation of FIR against two BDPOs, and submitted documents indicting them.
Trashing the report filed on the basis of superintendent of police (SP special branch) Gurcharan Singh, the additional district and session judge Rajiv Kalra observed: “It appears that proper investigation has not been conducted by inquiry officer and he tried to hush up the matter.”
“A copy of MGNREGA guidelines have been furnished on record wherein certain directions have been given regarding purchase of material by the gram panchayat with the concurrence of the BDPO and then payment is to be made online to the firm. As per record, no such procedure was adopted by the BDPO and advance payment to the tune of Rs 1.66 crore was made to brick-kiln owners and firms without verifying the receipt of material. The bricks were purchased at the rate of Rs 4,700 per 1,000 as against Rs 4,100 fixed by the collector. The police probe is also silent whether the material was received by the concerned panchayat or not, and how advance bills were paid to the firms before the delivery of material,” observed the court.
After the HT report, the departmental probe found several irregularities in the purchase of material. No panchayat resolution was passed before ordering the material and the purchase were done without any quotation or tender. Besides, no estimate was obtained from the junior engineer concerned and the payment was made before the material reached in villages.
In 2014, an inquiry by the then additional deputy commissioner (ADC development) had indicted the BDPOs of Samana and Patran in Patiala for large-scale irregularities, siphoning off of funds and corruption. The probe found that BDPOs had embezzled money in the purchase of material for brick-lining the village streets, developing village ponds, and other civic works under the job guarantee plan. They were charged with paying Rs 5 crore as advance for bricks, cement, sand and gravel, which had not reached the villages. While the rural development department listed it as a scam, Punjab Police filed a closure report in the case under political pressure in 2015.