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India

CID files chargesheet in ₹40-crore lake dredging scam

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) submitted a 1.25 lakh-page chargesheet to the court earlier this week on the alleged irregularities and misappropriation of public funds of over ₹40 crore in dredging of rural tanks and lakes in Kushtagi taluk of the drought-prone Koppal district between October 2015 and January 2016.

As the scam came to light in early 2016 following an RTI application filed by Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha, a probe was taken up by the Superintending Engineer, Kalaburagi, leading to unearthing of misappropriation estimated at ₹40.9 crore.

The chargesheet upheld the initial probe report submitted by the Superintending Engineer. It framed criminal charges against 60 people — 18 public servants and 42 contractors — with Executive Engineer R.G. Premanand Kumar being the main accused. It also found that a few government officials had transferred certain amounts of money to their personal bank accounts. The chargesheet pointed out that the Executive Engineer took advantage of the provision for utilising the money left over after the finalisation of a tender for local works and misused it by falsely showing that it was spent on dredging work.

The initial probe-report had pointed out the involvement of officials in the technical and accounts branches in divisional and sub-divisional levels in the scam. They allegedly helped in creating smaller packages of work costing less than ₹1 lakh and preparing detailed project reports just to avoid detection of the crime.

The government had subsequently suspended 26 officials, pending inquiry. The suspended officials included Mr. Premanand Kumar, three assistant executive engineers, six assistant engineers and nine junior engineers. The government move had left the Kushtagi divisional office of the Minor Irrigation Department deserted as most of the staff members were under suspension.

When the CID took up the case in 2017, the probe report submitted by the Superintending Engineer, Kalaburagi, formed the basis for its investigation. It found out that not only several smaller packages were created for a larger work illegally with an intention to remain unnoticed but also bills were cleared for works that were shown as completed only on paper.

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