Monday, December 12, 2016

MNREGA: Bribe paid online to officials

Much before demonetization of high value currency notes, government officials in Kodinar of Gir-Somnath district allegedly accepted bribe money in 'white'.

A range forest officer and a couple of other officers accepted bribe money through online transactions during their alleged misappropriation of Rs2.42 crore in Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) scheme in forest area. In this case, construction material was purchased, work orders were issued and the project was declared complete, without employing the labourers, whom the scheme was meant to benefit.

Police investigation has revealed that the RFO of Sutrapada forest range, V R Ravalia, allegedly received Rs 20 lakh through online banking transaction from R V Traders -- one of two trading companies from whom material was purchased. This amount was credited to the bank account of Ravalia's son. This happened in June. These traders paid him Rs 10 lakh through angadia, and Rs 25 lakh more in cash.

The work under MNREGA included construction of check dams and small ponds in forest area. Six accused persons siphoned off the public money by raising false bills and false vouchers to show purchase of material for the work without employing any labour. There were 21 different projects sanctioned under the scheme, but the bills were raised for 56 projects.

When the scam was unearthed, an FIR was lodged with Kodinar police station and six persons were charged with forgery, criminal breach of trust by government servant and abetment. Ravalia was earlier granted anticipatory bail by Gujarat high court. This prompted other accused persons to seek protection against possible arrest on the ground of parity. Everybody denied their involvement and tried to impress upon the HC that it was not their job to check whether the work was actually carried out in the field.
The state government had also moved the HC for cancellation of Ravalia's anticipatory bail.

After hearing the case, the HC cancelled Ravalia's anticipatory bail and asked him to surrender by January 1. The court denied anticipatory bail to five others.

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