Devaswom yet to act against erring employees

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) is reportedly sitting on the inquiry reports seeking stringent action against employees accused of defalcation of money and valuables from the counting and sorting centres at Sabarimala and also at the 1,208 temples in 18 groups under the board.

Official sources told The Hindu here that on detecting specific instances of embezzlement of cash and gold worth about Rs.10 crore during a Mandalam and Makaravilakku season in Sabarimala, senior officials had recommended disciplinary action against the accused, but the board chose to ignore such recommendations.

About 250 employees are now being made to sort and count the currency, coins, gold, and silver at a time in a 250-sq.ft. chamber.

The suggestions to shift the counting centre to an expansive premise equipped with scanners, cameras, coin and note counting machines have not evoked any response from the board. Instances of reinstating employees accused of misappropriation too were aplenty, sources said.

Internal auditors have pointed out a glaring mismatch between the recorded income received from devotees for conducting various pujas and the collection from ‘hundi' (collection boxes) installed at temples.

The increase in the recorded income was cited as a proof of the number of devotees frequenting the temple and the fall in collection from the boxes pointed to the level of embezzlement, sources said.

No uniform system

The wide disparity is also a pointer to the misappropriation of funds while opening and counting the boxes. The board at present does not have a uniform system for opening, sorting, and counting the collection from boxes. The entire process is being done under the supervision of middle-level board offices and this offers scope for misappropriation.

In sealed bags

Former Devaswom Commissioner P.V. Nalinakshan Nair had mooted a system to plug the loopholes in the sorting and counting system.

The collection from each temple was proposed to be brought in sealed bags to a centralised counting centre in each district attached to a bank.

The money should be sorted and counted under close scrutiny and then deposited in the bank itself. No decision had been made on the report so far, sources said.

Earlier, the internal auditors used to conduct surprise checks in temples and on detecting irregularities, used to seek explanation from the employees.

The internal auditing system has reportedly been made ritualistic. The board vigilance wing headed by a Superintendent of Police too had not been effective in preventing malpractices, sources said.

  • Counting centre staff at Sabarimala under scanner

  • Mismatch between recorded income, hundi collection