VACB inspects Civil Supplies district depot
The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) on Monday inspected the district depot of the Civil Supplies Corporation at Valiathura here and said it detected large-scale illegal diversion of subsidised rice, pulses and chilli, and provisions earmarked for the noon meal scheme for schoolchildren.
Circle Inspector S. Sreekanth of the VACB’s ‘Lightning Squad’ led the surprise inspection on the basis of information received by Superintendent of Police of the Special Intelligence Unit-II, E. Sherifudeen.
Noon meal scheme
The depot stocked provisions meant for sale through Maveli stores and Civil Supplies outlets. The commodities included at least three grades of rice, including one exclusively for providing noon meals to schoolchildren.
The VACB received information that government auditors had verified the stock at the warehouse recently and detected a glaring shortfall of more than 100 sacks of rice.
The whistle blowers also told the agency that some corrupt officials, possibly acting in connivance with the auditors, had covered the deficit by persuading certain private wholesale stockists to ‘temporarily’ supply the ‘missing’ quantity of rice to the depot. Investigators said that the surprise check revealed that there were an extra 23 sacks of rice, each weighing approximately 50 kg, in the warehouse. The warehouse officials were at a loss to explain the surplus stock, they said.
The VACB also found significant shortfall in two different grades of black gram and chilli.
Investigators said they suspected that certain corrupt officials illegally diverted the provisions to supermarkets and so called ‘margin-free shops,’ which were privately run. (At least a few of such outlets were run by front-men of wholesalers contracted to supply provisions at low rates to the government). The traders sold the provisions as packaged commodities at a far higher rate.
Investigators said the records at the warehouse were not up to date and improperly maintained. The security men at the gates rarely kept a record of trucks entering and leaving the compound. (The VACB has recommended a surveillance camera-linked check post system for the warehouse).
Every month, the Corporation’s district monitoring committee invited tenders from suppliers and contracted the lowest bidder. The purchases at the district depot here amount to more than Rs.1 crore a month. The suppliers offloaded their wares at the warehouse. However, the warehouse did not have a weighbridge to ensure that the contractors supplied the agreed quantity. Investigators said this was a major avenue for corruption, which required to be closed.
The agency was also investigating allegations that certain warehouse officials regularly received commission from private provision suppliers and had amassed disproportionate wealth. Last year, the agency had charge-sheeted a warehouse official on similar charges.
The inspection which commenced at 11 a.m. concluded at 6 p.m. The investigators prepared an inventory of the items in the warehouse in the presence of its custodian Sajith Kumar. The agency will send a report to the government seeking departmental action against certain warehouse officials.