The communist parties claim to work for the poor, but their record in this matter does not inspire any confidence. The communist government in Kerala has been marred by accusations of corruption and Muslim appeasement. Kerala’s latest scam has caused embarrassment to the government and the party.
Kerala’s latest scam
M R Bijulal, a Senior Accountant employed at the Vanjiyoor Sub Treasury in Trivandrum is accused of siphoning two crore rupees. Bijulal, who has been suspended now, and his wife Sini, a Higher Secondary School teacher are both absconding. According to reports, the money was swindled from a special savings account maintained by The District Collector for the welfare and relief work pertaining to adivasis. This account was maintained at the government treasury where he was employed. The couple`s bank accounts have since been frozen.
Bijulal has been alleged to be associated with to the ruling CPM and media reports suggest that he was a CPM Cyber Warrior and also an NGO union leader. While the CPM led NGO union denied that he was associated with them and even mentioned that Bijulal was opposed to leftist organisations, his social media accounts show otherwise. He is openly seen supporting the CPM on facebook here. It must be noted that associating with political parties while serving in the government is also against service rules.
The modus operandi employed by Bijulal to embezzle public funds was quite crude. Apparently, a retired Sub Treasury Officer, V Bhaskaran`s User ID and password was misused by Bijulal to transfer funds. Although Bhaskaran had retired on May 21st, he had been on leave since March. Bijulal who used to handle cheques at the treasury had access to Bhaskaran`s office room. Officials said that Bijulal might have closely oserved and understood the password during his visits to the officer`s room. All the transfers happened after Bhaskaran`s retirement.
The two crores were first transferred to Bijulal`s savings account at the treasury. Later on an amount of 61.23 Lakhs was transferred to Sini`s personal account maintained at another private bank. Bijulal also transferred amounts to his sister`s personal account. Upto five such accounts numbers have been unearthed by the investigators till now.
This incident came to light when the IT coordinator did a routine checkup, found the discrepancy and informed the Treasury Director. The treasury director approached the District Collector who then asked the City Police Commissioner to look into the matter. The Commissioner said that an investigation is on, the missing amount is yet to be recovered and criminal cases have been registered against both Bijulal and Sini.
Loopholes in processes
Several loopholes have been found in the software and processes that handle transactions at the treasury. As per protocol, the password and user ID of retired officials should be deleted immediately upon retirement. This was not done. Since such accounts are overdraft facilities even if an amount gets transferred to another account it does not reflect upon the balance as long as it remains in the treasury albeit in another account.
There are also allegations that these drawbacks were reported to the authorities several times in the past, but were ignored. There are allegations that this was done deliberately to help corrupt officials to use public funds for a few days and later return the same into the same account, undetected. That the higher ups and ultimately the police were informed only after two days of discovery of the missing funds, is also suspicious. It is also alleged that attempts were made to replace the amount in the meantime to cover up the whole matter.
Had the Information Systems Management Cell (ISMC) attached to the treasury done its job in the first place this fraud would not have happened. It was the ISMC that was supposed to lock the password as soon as Bhaskaran had retired. It is alleged that this was not done on purpose and now lower grade staff are being made scapegoats.
The Finance Department has entrusted the internal investigation in the case to Joint Director of Treasuries V Sajan and he is to provide a detailed report. This officer himself has a dubious history and has been reprimanded by the Finance Secretary on previous occasions for filing biased reports. In fact, an organisation of employees affiliated with the CPI (a coalition partner of the CPM) has come out openly against the Joint Director. They alleged recurring instances of money being embezzled from the treasury under the patronage of Sajan and A.M. Jafar, the Director of Treasuries.
This is not the first time that Kerala govt officials and CPM cadre were found stealing relief materials(in cash and kind) donated for the poor affected by the floods. Various such instances have occurred with some being reported but a majority going unreported.
- In August 2018, two government officials were caught red handed while trying to siphon relief materials from Panamaram village in Wayanad District and another official from Chengannur in Alappuzha District.Around the same time relief supplies arriving from Tamil Nadu destined for the Idukki District Collector`s office was forcefully diverted to the local CPM Office and distributed under the CPM flag in Munnar.
- In Kochi relief materials from Salem was also diverted in the same fashion to the CPM office.
- In Ernakulam District, MM Anwar, a local CPM leader connived with revenue department officials and pocketed Rs.10.54 Lakhs from the flood relief fund even though his house was not even affected. This was happening in a state where the poor who had lost their houses have not even been paid a paltry Rs.10,000/- which was promised to them, even after two years of the 2018 floods. Many, driven by desperation have ended their lives. This led to chain of arrests of officials working at the Ernakulam Collectorate, including Vishnuprasad a clerk in the flood relief section. The names of around 325 beneficiaries were duplicated and one crore rupees is believed to have been rerouted to CPM party beneficiaries. Accused Anwar is still absconding!
At this time of crisis, when the state is struggling to bring down the COVID patient numbers, ministers and top bureaucrats are alleged to be linked with gold smugglers and anti-national radical Islamists and corruption, scandals and nepotism have taken centre stage. The God’s own Country has truly gone to the dogs!
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