Special Correspondent

Chennithala writes to Chief Minister seeking probe

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Close on the heels of its running campaign against Public Works Minister P. J. Joseph, putting him in the docks for alleged irregularities committed during his earlier tenure as Housing-Public Works Minister, the Congress has opened a new flank to corner the nascent LDF Government with KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala addressing an open letter to Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan demanding a comprehensive inquiry into the whole affair.

The issue revolves around alleged irregularities to the tune of Rs.433 crores committed by the Kerala State Housing Board (KSHB) under its Maitri Housing Scheme during Mr. Joseph's tenure.

Mr. Chennithala, releasing his letter to the media, said here on Saturday that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Assembly, headed by CPI(M) leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan (now the Home Minister) had in its 36th report recommended a probe into the irregularities. The PAC, which submitted its report on January 29, 2003, also had the present Revenue Minister K. P. Rajendran and Speaker K. Radhakrishnan as members. On the basis of the PAC report, the KSHB conducted a detailed auditing of its accounts. The audit disclosed that the KSHB had diverted the amount without the clearance of the Finance Department.

Mr. Chennithala, who was accompanied by KPCC spokesperson M. M. Hassan at the press conference, said the Housing Board had recommended a Vigilance probe into the issue. The matter came up before the last Chandy Cabinet, but a decision on a probe was put off owing to the announcement of the elections. He said he was demanding a probe since the issue was a subject matter before the Cabinet. He pointed out that a series of inquiries had been already conducted, including the audit of the KSHB accounts, the last stage of the entire process.

Mr. Joseph's contention that he had no role in the KSHB decisions had no basis because the Maitri scheme was his dream project. As a Minister, he had to own up full responsibility for actions of his departments, Mr. Chennithala said. The decisions were taken and orders issued without the clearance of the Finance Department. The housing schemes for the weaker sections would become a casualty. The CPI(M) that claimed to be the saviour of public sector undertakings should make its stand clear, he said.

In his letter, Mr. Chennithala drew the Chief Minister's attention to his statement that he would not allow any tainted Minister to continue in his Cabinet.