Vigilance seeks govt nod to investigate former Principal Secretary Sivasankar

The Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau of Kerala has approached the state government seeking permission to investigate M Sivasankar, the now-removed Principal Secretary to Chief Minister after his reported proximity to a smuggling ring busted in Thiruvananthapuram on July 5.

The Prevention of Corruption Prevention Act Amendment 17(A) says government permission is mandatory to investigate Ministers, MLAs, and senior civil servants.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and some other leaders had made representations in this regard.

Vigilance Director Anil Kant forwarded the complaints in a file to the Additional Chief Secretary (Home). A final decision will be taken by the Chief Minister.

The Leader of Opposition’s complaint also speaks of corruption in the allocation of the BevQ app. The other complaints with the Vigilance include those on ‘favouritism’ and ‘wrong’ appointments in the IT Department which affected the exchequer.

Ramesh Chennithala had alleged that the government had ‘deactivated’ the Vigilance machinery. He said the state government should not hesitate to order a Vigilance inquiry with regard to Sivasankar’s activities if they had nothing to ‘hide.’

Notably, the investigation into smuggling accused Swapna Suresh securing a job in an IT Department-affiliated entity using a forged certificate had not made much progress. The police had taken possession of all files related to Swapna Suresh’s appointment from the IT Department. Due to this, the Finance (investigation wing) did not get any files. Chennithala said the investigation was more or less stagnant due to this.

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Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala

The Vigilance department has not taken any action on his complaints into the "illegal appointments" and if the government has nothing to hide it should give permission for the inquiry, the Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly said.

"The resignation of Laby George, a fellow with the Startup Mission creates more doubts. The American citizen resigned after her appointment came under scanner. It's a serious matter that a foreign citizen was appointed with a high salary in a government office," Chennithala posted in his official Facebook page.

Chennithala, who had raised the issue last month alleging irregularities in her appointment with a high salary, said there was no transparency in the appointments in the IT department.

"Now it's clear that many have joined the department by submitting fake certificates and all these must come under the probe," he said in an apparent reference to the appointment of Swapna Suresh, an accused in the gold smuggling case.

Startup Mission Chief Executive Officer Saji Gopinath said George has resigned from the post of fellowship.

"It's a senior fellowship post for a short period," he told PTI.

When asked about Chennithala's allegation that George was an Overseas Citizen Of India (OCI) and how she was appointed as a senior fellow, Gopinath said it was allowed.

"As per conditions for OCI, only a few things are not allowed. This was allowed as per the regulations. This person was appointed as product and marketing Fellow of the Startups. She is a person with a huge amount of experience," Gopinath said.

Chennithala had on July 9 alleged a woman with American citizenship was working with the Startup Mission here while her name was in the voters' list in the US.

Within days of the Congress leader raising the issue, she resigned.

On Sunday, Chennithala said a letter was given to the Chief Minister demanding inquiry into "the illegal appointments" during his tenure.

After the opposition raised allegations of illegal appointments by M Sivasankar as IT secretary, now suspended, many who got such jobs were resigning one after other, Chennithala said.

"All who committed corruption should be made accountable. Role of the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau is to conduct investigation into such cases. However, the department is unable to launch a probe. I have given two complaints as a responsible leader of the opposition. The government and chief minister are answerable for this," he said.

(With PTI inputs.)

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