The Central Bureau of Investigation on Monday unearthed a major scam in the disbursement of Old Age Pension (OAP) to senior citizens.

Besides irregularities in the payout, investigators found that a majority of postmen took Rs. 20 as unauthorised commission from the beneficiaries. After a surprise check, special teams of the Anti-Corruption Branch arrested eleven postmen, including a woman, agency sources said.

Following a specific input on corruption in the disbursement of OAP, CBI officials conducted the checks at the West Mambalam, K.K. Nagar and Ashok Nagar post offices on Monday. “We saw OAP beneficiaries standing in long queues at the post offices. Going by the rule, pension should be delivered at the doorstep in the presence of witnesses. The Revenue Department pays Money Order commission to the Postal Department,” a CBI official said.

He said the pension was disbursed without due verification. Signatures of witnesses were not obtained. The postmen gave Rs. 380, instead of Rs. 400, to the beneficiaries.

OAP is given to beneficiaries coming under five categories – old aged persons, physically handicapped destitutes, destitute widows, destitute agricultural labourers and deserted wives. It was raised from Rs. 200 to Rs. 400 a month in August 2006.

“It has been the practice of a majority of postmen to deduct Rs. 20 to Rs. 40 as commission from the beneficiaries. In Chennai district, there are about 2.36 lakh pensioners under the OAP scheme. The surprise check on Monday was confined to the disbursement of pension to 52,000 pensioners in three post offices,” the official said.

Asked whether the Post Master or other senior officials were aware of the irregularity, he said the matter was subject to further investigation.

“At this stage, we cannot rule out the involvement of other postal employees in the case. The money involved is huge…we suspect that the money would be to the tune of several lakhs per month in Chennai alone. Many pensioners have given statements that they were paid only Rs. 380 a month over a period of time.”

The arrested postmen belonged to the West Mambalam and K.K. Nagar post offices. An amount of Rs. 13,000, alleged to be unauthorised commission, was seized. Two cases have been registered against the accused under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the sources added.