Vigilance gets cold feet as KSFE raids annoy LDF govt

Vigilance reined in, follow up action on raids to get delayed

Thiruvananthapuram: The Left Democratic Front Government got a rude jolt a couple of days ago as the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) conducted checks at some branches of the Kerala State Financial Enterprises (KSFE) over suspected irregularities. The unease in the ruling establishment may likely slow down follow-up action by the corruption watchdog.

A day after Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac denounced the raids as unwarranted and inopportune, the Vigilance has reportedly come under pressure to refrain from any action against the popular chit fund agency.

The Vigilance has reportedly changed its earlier decision to go after the KSFE in the backdrop of the raids triggering a controversy and Isaac and other leaders reacting strongly.

The Vigilance move was to submit a preliminary report to the government seeking action against officials of 20 branches based on the findings of the raids.

However, Vigilance director Sudesh Kumar has directed the officials to submit the report only after proper consultations and refrain from making details of the raid public. The government will also ask Sudhesh Kumar, who is on leave at present, to report immediately.

In the absence of Sudhesh Kumar, IG H Venkatesh was holding the charge of the director. Senior officers who took part in the raid are reportedly not happy with the turn of events.

Even senior CPM leaders have alleged conspiracy behind the raids as the opposition has been given another stick to beat the LDF government in the run-up to the local body polls.

As the KSFE comes under the finance ministry and the Vigilance department is part of the home department headed by the chief minister, such unsavoury developments may cast the ministry in poor light.

CPM to discuss raids

The CPM has decided to take up the Vigilance raid issue for discussion without any further delay. The 'Available Secretariat' of the party is expected to discuss the matter on Monday itself.

A section of leaders are annoyed over the manner in which back-to-back issues have hobbled the home department. After Isaac, CPM state secretariat member Anathalavattom Anandan also came out openly against the raids on Sunday.

"There is a conspiracy behind the raids. The government should make it clear on whose complaint was the inspection carried out. There is genuine suspicion that the raids were held to help private financial institutions. The attempt is to destroy KSFE's credibility. The Vigilance did not apply its mind about the serious ramifications of its action," Anandan said.

CPM state secretary A Vijayaraghavan said the KSFE was functioning in an effective manner and it is subject to required inspections and controls. "The party has not discussed the Vigilance inspection. We will respond once discussions are over," he stated.

Isaac had blamed the Vigilance for lack of propriety while carrying out inspection in a financial institution. "It could only find out whatever had been pointed out in a CAG report earlier," the Finance Minister said.

"Let the (inspection) report come out then you will know whose madness it is. The people concerned will inquire why there was a lapse on the part of Vigilance. And if there is any lapse we know how to rectify it," the minister said, even as refraining from giving any specific reply as to whether the chief minister was aware of the raids.

Meanwhile, on the directions of the finance department, an urgent internal audit will be carried out in 36 branches of KSFE where vigilance raids had unearthed irregularities.

The Vigilance raid was conducted in 40 KSFE offices on Saturday.

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