A sum of Rs 1.4 crore was allegedly withdrawn and shown as “spent” by Trinamul-run gram panchayats in Birbhum in the 100 days’ job scheme on 26 projects that never took shape, district officials have said.
The disclosure comes over a week after chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s instruction to district authorities to detect and clamp down on corruption.
Birbhum district magistrate Moumita Godara Basu and Birbhum zilla parishad chief Bikash Roy Chowdhury came across the alleged siphoning of funds when they visited eight sites on Wednesday and found no work — mainly digging of ponds — was carried out under the job scheme, MGNREGA.
Sources said the horticulture department had proposed digging up 43 ponds under the scheme in the district last year. In 26 cases, gram panchayats and panchayat samitis submitted utilisation certificates and withdrew the funds.
“It is gross corruption involving government projects. We have visited eight sites where funds were withdrawn without any work. I, along with the district magistrate, visited a few spots. We will go to other spots to inquire. We will lodge FIRs with police against those gram panchayat and horticulture department officials who are involved in this,” said Roy Chowdhury.
The money was withdrawn by submitting fake documents, including rolls of MGNREGA job-card holders, other officials said. “We are collecting all papers and will lodge the police complaint very soon,” Godara Basu, the district magistrate, said.
Some villagers of the Mathpalsa gram panchayat in Sainthia had complained three days ago to the district magistrate about four such projects under the horticulture department, alleging funds were withdrawn without any work.
Zilla parishad chief Roy Chowdhury chastised Mathpalsa panchayat chief Abhijit Saha over the alleged corruption. Saha, however, claimed “it was a project of the horticulture department and that the panchayat was in no way connected with it. We just provided labourers.”
Asked about the matter, Sajalendu Sheet, deputy director of horticulture in Birbhum, said: “An inquiry is going on and everything will be revealed.”
Told that his department had sanctioned the funds without verifying the project, Sheet hung up and later did not take calls.
In Purulia, district magistrate Rahul Majumdar said he had started visiting remote villages to oversee projects.
Bankura DM Uma Sankar S. has set up a special tender monitoring committee to check corruption.