Probe report on swindling of flood-relief fund still 'missing'

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Representational image.

Kakkanad: The Ernakulam district administration is yet to receive the probe report on the swindling of flood-relief funds to the tune of more than Rs 35 lakh, allegedly by a group of people including a collectorate employee, cooperative bank manager and two CPM local committee members.

In the absence of the report, submitted two years ago to the government by a probe panel headed by Land Revenue Joint Commissioner A Kaushikan, no action has been initiated against the employee, Vishnu Prasad.

The district administration has now written to the government, pointing out that it has not yet received the report, and further action to recover the swindled amount could not be made until it was made available.

Beyond freezing Vishnu Prasad's properties, no other steps, including those to attach them to the government have been initiated. Besides Vishnu Prasad, the director of the CPM-ruled Ayyanad Cooperative Bank, and two CPM local committee members are the accused in the case.

The Land Revenue Joint Commissioner was assigned to probe the incident after the swindling of several lakhs from the flood-relief fund came to light.

Meanwhile, Land Revenue Commissionerate had written to the collectorate, enquiring about the probe report. The collectorate responded, saying it had not received the report, and directed the commissionerate to approach the government.

There were indications that the probe panel had found irregularities in the collectorate, and accounts of several lakhs of rupees did not tally. The investigation team reportedly noted that some of the accounts documents had not been provided and some others that were earlier available, disappeared.

Several flood-hit people had to return the relief amount received due to technical errors. Receipts revealed that the prime accused had collected about Rs 85 lakh that was returned to the government. Of the Rs 85 lakh, about Rs 48 lakh was deposited in the treasury.

Officials, including those who had signed the receipts while accepting the returned money, have been clueless of the remaining Rs 37 lakh. The Land Revenue Joint Commissioner's report has included this also in the probe findings.

Expert panel

Land Revenue Joint Commissioner A Kaushikan-led investigation team comprised IT experts, financial experts, and auditing experts from the land revenue department. The team examined all files related to relief fund dispersal in 2018 and 2019, available at the collectorate. IT experts were included to check the online transactions.

The probe panel submitted its report after a two-week long investigation. A separate wing was opened at the collectorate for the probe team. Kaushikan had also gone through a report submitted by the collectorate's internal probe team. The aim was to complete the department-level probe simultaneously with the investigation by the crime branch.

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