Enquiry reveals fraud in Budgam Agriculture Department’s operations


Srinagar, Oct 12: An enquiry committee has revealed fraud in operations of the Agriculture Department in Budgam district, particularly in the regularisation of helpers.
In its report, the enquiry committee has mentioned that during the financial year 2016-2017, the Director Agriculture Kashmir released funds to the tune of Rs 21.12 lakh under various centrally-sponsored schemes in favour of CAO Budgam.
The money was meant for organising training camps for the farmers to introduce the latest technology in the field of agriculture at the sub-divisional, zonal, and circle levels.
The report states that the CAO Budgam released Rs 8 lakh on March 11 this year for organising various training camps in the sub-division.
However, the enquiry committee has found that the allotment was “not based” on any plan of requirement.
“About 40 training camps (one day) at Rs 15,000 each amounting to Rs 6 lakh and five district-level tour/training camps amounting to Rs 2 lakh have been allotted in favour of sub division Beerwah and in-charge headquarters assistant while ignoring operational guidelines made irrational allotment of training camps in favour of various zones,” the report reads.
At zone Beerwah, the team found that Rs 15,000 was drawn per training camp on “fake and fictitious” vouchers on account of refreshment for 150 farmers for each training camp in the name of various restaurants.
“Fake list of beneficiaries showing 150 beneficiaries in each training camps to have participated by making forged signatures on behalf of beneficiaries through some hands which has been vetted by the VAEAs of their area in jurisdiction and zonal officer as well, before its withdrawal by the SDAO from treasury. Thus fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 1.95 lakh has taken place in zone Beerwah. On account of training camps out of which Rs 1.65 lakh was transferred by cash/online to I/C head quarter assistant and balance Rs 30,000 remained with concerned VAEAs,” the report said.
It says the perusal of records of zone Beerwah reveals that five training camps have been shown organised at zonal level and Rs 2 lakh has been charged by way of various expenses.
“During the enquiry all the VAEAs as well as JAEOs stated that they do not have any knowledge with regard to allocation.”
At zone Uligam, the committee found huge “irregularities” in funds.
“The expenditure of Rs 90,000 claims to have been made on account of six training camps has been credited on April 4, 2017 in the official account of Tariq Ahmad who in turn has transferred online Rs 45000 in the account of AEO on May 4, 2017, at Rs 7,500 per camp and the balance amount of Rs 45000 has been handed over to zonal officer by cash after its withdrawal on the same day,” it reads.
The team has found that the cash on account of training camps amounting to Rs 90,000 has been “shared” between three officers (SDAO, headquarters assistant, and zonal officer).
“No expenditure on this account has been made on the ground as apparently it looks that modus operandi has remained the same at zone Beerwah,” the report reads.
The team has found that none of the training camps have been conducted in zone Ziagam at the ground level, while “fictitious” vouchers have been prepared.
The report says that at zonal officer Khag , the VAEAs have stated that out of Rs 45,000 received for training camps, Rs 22,500 have been paid to in-charge headquarters assistant while an equal amount has been spent on training camps.
“The statement itself has made it clear that expenditure charged A/C of refreshment to farmers is fake,” it reads.
The enquiry report said that zonal officer Narbal has said that out of Rs 30,000 received for two training camps, Rs 14,000 has been paid in cash to in-charge headquarters assistant and the remaining Rs 16,000 were spent on two training camps.
“Items of expenditure as well as list of beneficiaries which were vetted by VAEA and concerned zonal officer is not based on facts,” it reads.
The enquiry team has noticed some vouchers in zone Gumrah on which the expenditure was booked are dated before the date of allotment from incharge headquarter assistant. “The zonal officer tried to justify the training camps by depicting the photographs which has been drawn in the month of May 2017, after the order of enquiry to the training camps. The photographs itself speaks the non conducting of training camps and the expenditure of Rs 1,65000 for camps has been drawn through unlawful ways and means,” it reads.
At zone Budgam, Shagapora and Saibugh, the team found that recently regularized helpers were forced to pay kickbacks to officials.
“A group of recently regularized helpers said that their pay arrears which were due with effect from April 1, 1999 to date of regularization and were drawn in the month of March 2017. Before releasing payment to their bank accounts they were forced to sign bank cheques, withdrawal forms for want of kickback amount to the arrears and accordingly more than 2.75 lakh were snatched from their accounts,” it said.
The team said that similar representations have been made by other regularised helpers.
“Withdrawal on account of bribes/ kickbacks amounts Rs 18.30 lakh has been withdrawn from the accounts of helpers and credited in three bank accounts. The transactions of kickbacks amount through some third person have been made intentionally so that no proof may remain in place.”
At sub-division Khansahib, the enquiry team found “irregularities” in booking of the expenditure.
“The kickbacks payment of Rs 204000 has taken place in Khansahib.”
The enquiry committee led by A R Samoon, Director Rakhs and Farms was constituted in view of allegations of irregularities by various implementing or drawing and disbursing officers implementing various state or centrally-sponsored schemes during 2016-2017 in district Budgam of the Agriculture Department.
Aijaz Ahmad Hamdani, senior scale stenographer, Fayaz Ahmad assistant accounts officer, Ghulam Mohammad Babloo, accounts officer, Rafiq Ahmad Pandit deputy director, law enforcement were the members of the committee.
A senior official of the Agriculture Department said the government has not yet taken any action on the enquiry report.
“There is around Rs 80 lakh misappropriation of funds and bribes taken from class 4th employees by the officials,” the official said.
He said the Principle Secretary Agriculture, Sundeep Kumar Nayak, on October 9, constituted a new committee to enquire and ascertain the facts of alleged kickbacks, and misappropriation of funds for year 2015-2016 and 2016-17 in sub division Beerwah.
Director Finance Agriculture department has been appointed its enquiry officer and has been directed to submit report within 15 days.
“Only Principle Secretary can tell why no action has been taken so far on the enquiry report,” he said.
However, Sundeep Kumar Nayak did not respond to phone calls for two days even sending him an SMS to pick up the phone.