Kerala CM’s relief fund misuse case: Probe agency seeks action against officials
As the VACB intensified its investigation more irregularities came to light. In Kollam district ₹4 lakh was given to an applicant whose house was “severely damaged” in a natural disaster but officials found his house was in good condition, another senior official said
A day after irregularities in the Kerala Chief Minister’s disaster relief fund were unearthed, the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau (VACB) on Friday recommended action against officials who were party to the swindling and recommended auditing of funds in every six months, VACB director Manoj Abraham said.
Code-named “Operation CMDRF”, he said investigation was intensified and cases will be registered against people who were part of the swindling after investigation. After examining details of relief disbursal, he said cheating and fund diversion were found.
“It is a well-organised crime and we will build up strong cases after collecting all evidences. Exact amount of pilferage and number of involved persons will be made available only after thorough investigation,” he said, adding the number will be large.
As the VACB intensified its investigation more irregularities came to light. In Kollam district ₹4 lakh was given to an applicant whose house was “severely damaged” in a natural disaster but officials found his house was in good condition, another senior official said. Similarly in Alapuzha district, a doctor issued certificates to 10 applicants and these certificates were issued on a single day, 30.6. 22. In 70 applications In Idukki for relief, VACB found applicants’ phone no was same. In Palakkad district out of 78 applications, an Ayurveda doctor had issued certificates to 54 applicants last year.
“Now we are concentrating in cases where big money and serious irregularities involved. It seems these tricksters have used all opportunities to swindle. It is a well organised nexus between officials, doctors and agents,” he said adding in some cases big commissions were accrued by them. He said details of officials involved in the racket were handed over to the government.
As the CM’s relief fund is mainly meant for most needy, persons down with serious ailments and disaster affected usually, it needs income certificate, doctor’s certification and other details. What is really baffling is that process is cumbersome and different level vetting was also there but swindlers made use of “unaccounted and unaudited money” through ingenious and organised ways. People close to the VACB said cheating will run into several crores of rupees.
As the issue is getting murkier opposition upped ante questioning delay in arresting the accused. “We have been hearing about these shocking details in last two days. Not a single case was registered. Even poor man’s kitty was targeted. Since we suspect the role of ruling party activists in many incidents there are chances of weakening cases. We seek a special investigation team being monitored by court,” said opposition leader V D Satheesan.
Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan, who hailed from the state, said findings were really shocking. “It seems the CM had given initial lessons to these tricksters. He diverted ₹25 lakh from relief fund to the family of NCP leader U Vijayan, a late party MLA’s loan was paid off using this money and later ₹20 lakh was given to the wife of a policeman who died after hitting the pilot vehicle of former party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan,” he said adding such reckless diversions helped swindlers.
A complaint against the CM based on these “diversion complaints” is pending before the Lokayukta. There are reports that fearing adverse comments from the anti-corruption body, the government last year introduced amendments in Lokayukta Act but Governor Arif Mohammad Khan is yet to sign it.
Meanwhile the CPI(M) state secretary M V Govindan said strict action will be taken against those who misused the relief fund. “The CM had ordered inquiry after some complaints came to his notice and he said strict action will be taken against offenders. Nobody will be spared.” On Wednesday the VACB had conducted state-wide raids and found serious irregularities in the disbursal of CM’s disaster relief fund (CMDRF). In 2018 when the state witnessed flood of the century, the government had made a fervent plea to contribute to the CMDRF and there were many allegations of misappropriation then but they were brushed aside. Opposition parties said if those complaints were addressed then such incidents should not have happened now.