The Telegraph
Thursday , August 17 , 2017

Call to widen scam probe ambit

Bhagalpur/Patna, Aug.16: Retired bureaucrats and sleuths who have been associated with financial irregularities of the past have questioned the method of investigation in the Bhagalpur funds transfer scam, saying the role of government officials needs to be looked into in greater detail.

Former chief secretary V.S. Dubey wondered how various government departments in Bhagalpur district could have deposited their funds with the NGO. "How can such a practice be adopted for a period of over 10 years?" he asked.

In the aftermath of the fodder scam, Dubey, as chief secretary, had issued a five-page circular laying down stringent rules on withdrawal of funds from government treasuries. "I do not know how much of my orders are being implemented after I left the job. I am unable to digest the modus operandi of the transfer of funds by the Bhagalpur district administration to different accounts of the NGO Srijan," Dubey told The Telegraph today.

Dubey said if it is proven that funds belonging to different government departments were deposited with Srijan, the officers concerned should be charged with criminal conspiracy and made to face legal and disciplinary action. "The present investigation should focus and investigate the history of the transfer of funds by government officials to the NGO for logical conclusion of the case. It is unbelievable that government funds were parked with the NGO," he said.

A statement issued by Bank of Baroda denied charges of illegal practices. "Our bank acted as per the mandate given by the district authorities to operate their accounts with us for which relevant documents/cheques and other necessary papers are held in our record," general manager D.P. Mukhopadhyay said in a statement, stressing that a senior executive would investigate the matter and take action if any employee of the bank is found guilty.

Financial experts The Telegraph spoke to echoed Dubey, saying the SIT probe had to establish the magnitude of the fraud committed by diverting funds to the NGO's account. "The root of the scam is diversion of funds to the bank accounts of the NGO for utilisation of money as per its sweet will and generate income out of it," said a retired finance department official.

"The SIT should quantify the amount transferred by the various government departments during different years to fix responsibility on the officials concerned, irrespective of the fact whether the said amount was returned back or ultimately embezzled by the NGO," he said.

So far, nine FIRs have been lodged. Bhagalpur senior superintendent of police Manoj Kumar, who is assisting the SIT, said two suspects - Mahesh Mandal, a nazir (accountant) with the district welfare office, and Vinod Kumar, private driver of arrested Indian Bank clerk Ajay Pandey - were arrested on Monday.

The SSP said that district welfare officer Arun Kumar was subjected to intensive interrogation, which led to the raid on his flat on Patna's Boring Road. Kumar's wife Indu Gupta is on the run. Investigations have revealed that a sum of Rs 5 crore was transferred to Indu Gupta's account from that of the NGO.

The SIT has also served notices on six persons, including former district land acquisition officer Rajiv Ranjan, asking them to appear before the investigating agency. SSP Kumar said a team of police officials had been sent to Ranchi for the arrest of the main accused - Amit Kumar and his wife Priya Kumar.

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