Seven suspended for ₹15.2 crore bill scam in KNN

A file photo of Hipparagi barrage on Krishna river in Belagavi district.  

A bill scam through which about ₹15.28 crore was siphoned off by contractors in connivance with accounts officials on deputation to the Water Resources Department has come to light in Karnataka Neeravari Nigam (KNN), resulting in suspension of seven officials.

As many as eight fake bills were raised between February 2019 and November 2020 amounting to ₹16.61 crore by officials looking after accounts, and about ₹15.28 crore had been drawn by two contractors from Letter of Credit (LoC) savings using fake bills and fake documents, preliminary investigations a couple of weeks ago has revealed.

The incident has been reported from the Hipparagi Barrage Canal Division, Athani, Belagavi district. The vouchers that have been raised to create fake bills do not match with the works taken up by the KNN, and two contractors A.Y. Mulla and R.B. Shekh of Bagalkot have been identified as beneficiaries of the scam. Tenders were never called and works were not executed, but payments were made using fake documents, the investigation report states.

“As per the prevailing guidelines, the bills are raised by the Assistant Engineer and the Junior Engineer at the subdivision level, which will reach the Chief Engineer’s office after due diligence over work implemented and quality, among others, at various levels. It is then forwarded to the Chief Accounts Officer, who after accounting diligence releases the money to the contractors,” department sources explained. “However, in this case, the bill was raised in the accounts section without the knowledge of field officials and directly paid to contractors.”

Chief Accounts Officers M.M. Mirza and S.N. Varadaraju, Accounts Superintendents D.C. Sheela and Vinayaka Arkashali, Accounts Officer Deepak A. Moodalagi, and First Grade Accounts Assistants Anil Jadhav and Sharanappa have been kept under suspension.

Sources said that while the KNN had decided to divest the powers of clearing the bills from the Chief Accounts Officer and handed it over to the Executive Engineers’ office, the same should be implemented in the other three water corporations where similar scams could emerge.

Documents not in office

The internal investigation team could not lay its hands on several documents that are to be built as part of payment procedures since they were not in any office files, and the contractors did not cooperate in the investigations, the official document states.

Following the unearthing of the scam in October, the State Government on November 20 ordered seizure of all bank accounts of the accused while the Department of Stamps and Registration has been directed to stall any sale of immovable properties registered in their or in the names of family members. Criminal cases have been filed against them.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 12:08:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/seven-suspended-for-152-crore-bill-scam-in-knn/article37731760.ece

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