The Patna district administration has decided to take preventive steps to check forging of signatures to withdraw public money.
Two such incidents of fraudulent withdrawal of welfare funds from the exchequer have left the administration red-faced.
The administration has decided to henceforth minimise the use of cheques at every level. “Cheque fraud has taken place in the past few weeks and in cognisance of this, we have decided to close 600 bank accounts of the 1,400 in the name of the Patna district administration. I think the only way to prevent this is to minim ise the use of cheques,” district magistrate (DM) N. Saravana Kumar said on the sidelines of his janata durbar.
Prior to this, an inquiry was conducted by the district administration at all its 95 offices to find out cases of cheque forgery. “During the inquiry, we came to know that some cheque leaves were missing but money was not withdrawn. Another important decision we have taken is to transfer funds through net banking, which will result in less use of cheques,” said Saravana Kumar.
The forging of cheques to take out public money had come to light around a fortnight ago after it was revealed that an amount of over Rs 3.56 crore was swindled by forging the signature of the district magistrate.
Three persons were arrested on November 21 from the district programme office, which implements development funds, for allegedly swindling money after forging the signatures of the DM and another officer.
A few days later, another incident of cheque forgery came to light in the district welfare office, this time for a sum of Rs 86.65 lakh.
“After the (first) incident, we had sent special teams to Chennai, Ranchi and Dhanbad from where the money was withdrawn. Investigation is on and we will find the person involved. During the investigation, we have also come to know that this is not the first time that cheques were forged. In several other offices too, money has been fraudulently withdrawn,” said Saravana Kumar.
Asked about any specific module, the DM said: “The primary investigation revealed that there is a criminal gang involved in this module. They primarily focus is the nazir, who are custodians of the cheques.”
He said the district administration will now issue cheques payable at local branches. “Though there is an RBI rule regarding multi-city cheques, we will put a special stamp on the cheques to make them payable at local branches only,” the DM added.