What started as an anonymous petition about alleged embezzlement of public money in Information and Public Relations department (I&PR) has turned out to be a criminal case staring in the face of some officials and advertising agencies.
Even as Hyderabad Central Crime Station (CCS) sleuths were inquiring about the petition, came a cable TV channel owner Irfan from old city making similar charges. He alleged that a person called Haji, and a senior assistant of the I&PR department, Majid, had collected blank letterheads of his channel promising to get Government ads for his channel.
He maintained that some money was paid to him but later learnt that it was far less than that mentioned in the records. After recording his statement, the CCS sleuths began investigation. In 2013, the Government had decided to give ads to cable TV channels having felt that it would reach more people. “It was mentioned in the note files and work orders that ads be given to cable TV channels having postal license and agreement with the Multi System Operators (MSOs),” the investigators said. Channels in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts were to be paid Rs. 200 per 10 seconds and Rs. 50 per 10 seconds in other districts.
CCS officials, seeking anonymity, said out of the 63 channels issued Government ads only 19 had the mandatory agreement with the MSOs. Seven don’t even exist but money was paid to them. Senior officials investigating the case said that bills were passed to the tune of Rs. 5.62 crore and Rs. 4.26 crore was already withdrawn. Three advertising companies, which were given the contract, had a single person as their sub-agent. Cable TV owners like Irfan got less than 20 per cent of the sum mentioned in the records, they said. “We have documentary evidence indicating that seven officers had signed files relating to a bill thrice in one day,” they said.
I&PR Commissioner Dana Kishore clarified that the defrauded amount in the scam was Rs.14.15 lakh and not eight crore. He also said that the sum was recovered from the advertising agency and a five per cent penalty imposed on it. Mr. Kishore stated that an inquiry by the department revealed that ads were not given to fictitious channels in other parts of the State barring Hyderabad.