At a time when the state is still grappling with the Srijan scam, which which government funds worth hundreds of crores of rupees was fraudulently transferred to private accounts of an NGO, the government is faced with another scam of major proportions.
The detection of illegal transfer of Rs 60-lakh of education department money into the account of a private travel agency at Darbhanga in north Bihar, has come as a shocker for the Bihar government.
The development caused education minister Krishna Nandan Prasad Verma to order, on Monday, an inquiry into utilization of funds of the education department across the state.
The irregularity came to light when Rs 60-lakh belonging to the education department was found illegally transferred to the account of a Narayan Tour and Travels, at the Gudri Bazaar branch of PNB at the north Bihar divisional headquarters town of Darbhanga.
Darbhanga district education officer (DEO) Sudhir Kumar Jha, who held the charge of district programme officer (DPO), said that he had signed a cheque of IDBI Bank on March 16, 2016 for an amount of just 60,000.
“How it became Rs 60-lakh and got transferred to an account with the Donar branch of the Punjab and Sindh Bank, a few weeks later and from there reached the PNB account of Narayana Tour & Travels through national electronic funds transfer (NEFT) the same day, is a mystery,” he said.
However, Jha’s plea could not convince the education department authorities, as he happens to be signing authority. He was put under suspension on Monday and a departmental inquiry has been ordered. He has been asked to report to headquarters during the suspension period.
Special secretary, department of education, Vinod Kumar Singh, said a three-member committee comprising finance experts would investigate the matter. “It is a serious matter. Following direction from the minister, we will now order special audit of the education department funds meant for scholarships, dress and bicycles,” he added.
Singh admitted that the modus operandi used for the fund defalcation was such that had stumped the department.
The suspended DEO, on the other hand, said that he had been cheated by a clerk Dilip Pathak in connivance with some unscrupulous elements. Interestingly, both the clerk and the DEO have lodged FIRs against each other with the Laheriasarai police station.
Asked if the DEO office had any link with the tour and travel agency in the past, the DEO feigned ignorance.
“There is no official account of the department in the Punjab and Sindh Bank. I am not even aware who opened the account and when. Besides, I had signed a cheque of Rs 60,000 (Rupees Sixty thousand), but a letter of the word ‘hazaar’ (thousand) in Hindi was overwritten. So, the clerk got it signed from me and later wrote lakh in place of ‘hazaar’. Two zeros were also added to the numerical value, which can be detected,” he added.
Though the account of the DEO had around Rs 2-crore in it, only Rs 60-lakh was transferred. Now, the education department is wondering whether such practice was on for long and if this was happening at places other than Darbhanga also.
Dilnawaz Ahmad, holding the charge of Darbhanga SSP, said that the irregularity had been proved and an investigation was on to fix accountability. “Besides the two officials, some bank officials may also come under scanner,” he added.