Chaibasa, Sept. 30: The fodder scam in which imaginary cattle chewed cud worth crores wouldn’t have been possible in this age of computerised accounts, say officials of the obscure Chaibasa treasury office, where the fodder scam first broke in 1996.
The ramshackle 1,000sqft office with peeling plaster, creaking furniture and acute manpower crunch has six computers.
In 1995-96, animal husbandry department vouchers — mere chits of paper — worth Rs 37.7 crore for cattle feed and medicines were cleared, raising the suspicions of then West Singhbhum deputy commissioner Amit Khare.
District treasury officer Nisar Ahmed ruled out scope of a scam now. “In the period of 1993-1996, withdrawals took place based on unauthorised vouchers. Now, there is computerisation and a compulsory authorisation process,” he said. West Singhbhum deputy commissioner Abu Bakr Siddique agreed. “Accounts managed online through Jharnet and there is complete transparency,” he said.
In 2013, the animal husbandry department withdraws some Rs 20-30 lakh a month from the treasury, a far cry from the heydays of the scam in 1995 when Rs 80 lakh was taken out in a day.
But if much has changed, much remains the same. Though spreadsheets have taken the place of chits of paper and files, of the six computers, three are defunct. Two CCTVs installed in 2005 are defunct for three years. It has only seven staff against a sanctioned strength of 30.
“We have to clear bills despite staff shortage. During the days of manual operation, we cleared 100-200 bills. Now, it’s 200-250 bills per day. Computerisation has increased our efficiency,” said a clerk who preferred not to be quoted.
A peon, Anil Kumar Das, who retired in March, was requested to carry on his function on an honorary basis. “Kaam ka bahut load hai. Officer log ne request kiya ki free time main aakar madad karde. Mera bhi man yahan aakar laga rahta hai (There is immense workload. Some officers requested if I could turn up when free time to help them out. I agreed as I feel attached to the office),” Das said.
Though the office handles transactions worth Rs 50 crore a month, regulates and authorises government employee pensions, maintains accounts of receipts of revenue and acts as the nodal point for stamps needed for non-judicial matters, court fees and share transfers, the 150-year-old building has seen no repair for years.
The 30-feet high rooms have peeling plaster, seeping walls and dangling electrical wires. Short circuit seems to be imminent.
“Building bahut purana hai. Repair ki zarurat hai. (The building is very old and needs major repairs),” a senior clerk, not wanting to be named, said.
Das, who started working in this office in 1980, said during 1993-95, there were around 16 employees but there “has been no recruitment since then”.
He added that Lalu had never stepped foot in the office during that time. “We came to know everything through the newspapers. It was the biggest sensation.”