|The Chaibasa treasury office
Chaibasa, Sept. 30: The scam in which imaginary cattle chewed fictional fodder worth crores would not be possible in this age of computerised accounts, say officials at the Chaibasa treasury office, one of the theatres of the fraud.
The ramshackle 1,000sqft office with peeling plaster and damp walls, creaking furniture and an acute manpower crunch has six computers.
In 1995-96, animal husbandry department vouchers for Rs 37.7 crore worth of cattle feed and medicines were cleared, raising the suspicions of Amit Khare, then deputy commissioner of West Singhbhum district where Chaibasa is located.
Nisar Ahmed, the district treasury officer, ruled out the possibility of such a scam now.
“Between 1993 and 1996, withdrawals took place on the basis of unauthorised vouchers. Now there is computerisation and a compulsory authorisation process,” he said.
Abu Bakr Siddique, the current West Singhbhum deputy commissioner, agreed. “Accounts are managed online through JharNet (the state’s e-governance network) and there is complete transparency,” he said.
So far this year, the animal husbandry department has withdrawn some Rs 20-30 lakh a month from the treasury. In 1995, Rs 80 lakh was taken out in a single day.
But if the operations have entered the new millennium, the infrastructure is stubbornly stuck in the old.
Although spreadsheets have taken the place of files and chits of paper, three of the six computers are defunct. Two CCTVs installed in 2005 conked out three years ago. The office has just seven employees against a sanctioned strength of 30.
“We have to clear the bills despite the staff shortage. During the days of manual operations, we cleared 100 to 200 bills a day. Now, it’s 200 to 250 bills. Computerisation has increased our efficiency,” said a clerk who preferred not to be quoted.
Anil Kumar Das, who retired as office peon in March, was requested to carry on working without payment.
“There is immense workload. Some officers asked if I could help out in my spare time; I agreed because I feel an attachment to the office,” Das said.
Although the office handles transactions worth Rs 50 crore a month, regulates and authorises pensions, and maintains accounts of revenue receipts, the 150-year-old building has seen no repairs for years.
Plaster is peeling off the 30-foot-high ceilings and water is seeping through the walls. Electric wires dangle over your head. A short circuit seems just a matter of time.
Das, who has been working in this office since 1980, said it had some 16 employees in 1993-95 but “there has been no recruitment since then”.
He said Lalu Prasad had never set foot in this office. “We came to know everything from the newspapers. It was the biggest sensation.”