Mufti Govt. mulling Crime Branch probe into Rs 30 cr solar energy scam established by CAG
Minister Ruhullah cancelled supply order but J&KEDA officers still purchased solar lights worth Rs 11.24 crore from blacklisted firm
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Jammu, March 26: The State Finance Ministry, now operating under Dr Haseeb Drabu, is understood to be considering Crime Branch investigation into the Rs 30 crore solar lights scandal involving top officials of the Jammu and Kashmir Energy Development Agency [J&KEDA].
Well-placed sources in Finance Department revealed to this writer on Thursday that over the last one year, auditors of the State Accountant General’s office have investigated a major embezzlement of the funds provided by the Centre for setting up solar light units in the villages not covered by the Power Development Department. It has been established during the investigation that almost all these units, installed with the financial support of the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, have been provided to the people of the electrified villages on the recommendation of different politicians and officers.
Comptroller and Auditor General of India [CAG] has compiled a detailed report on this investigation which is likely to figure in the CAG report being tabled in both Houses of J&K Legislature here on Friday.
While the National Conference President and former Lok Sabha member from Central Kashmir, Dr Farooq Abdullah, headed the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, NC’s Budgam MLA Aga Syed Ruhullah functioned as Cabinet Minister incharge Science and Technology in Omar Abdullah’s government in Jammu and Kashmir.
According to the sources, top J&KEDA officials in 2009 planned to place a major supply order for procurement of the solar lighting equipment with a blacklisted firm while bypassing Mr Ruhullah. Immediately after the Minister learned about it, he ordered cancellation of the supply order in November 2009. Still, in violation of all rules and norms, the J&KEDA officers proceeded with the scandal and purchased equipment worth Rs 11.24 crore from the same blacklisted firm. Tactfully, the supply order was broken into 13 different parts to escape notice of the Minister and others not involved in the fraudulent acquisition.
In addition to that, the J&KEDA officers placed similar supply orders with other beneficiary firms to the tune of Rs 16.92 crore in gross violation of terms and conditions of different quotations.
“CAG is understood to have established a fraud of Rs 28.16 crore. The new government is seriously considering handing over this case to the Crime Branch for a time-bound criminal investigation”, said a senior bureaucratic source. “But, let us wait and see what the CAG report says about this exercise”. “Possibly”, he said, “this investigation may be assigned to Crime Branch after a scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee”.
Rs 1.75 crore to 3 private schools
Meanwhile, officials in the Ministry of School Education said that the AG auditors also carried out a thorough investigation into the financial assistance provided by the previous government to three private schools in Kashmir.
“We have been told that Rs 1.75 crore has been provided to the three private schools, one of them owned by the wife of a senior Congress leader and former Union Minister. It has been provided on political recommendations and in total violation of rules and norms. But, we don’t know whether the CAG report contains anything on it or not”, said an official.
Significantly, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP-BJP coalition government has decided to table this year’s CAG report in Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council well ahead of the last day of the Budget session. Almost all previous governments had invariably retained the CAG reports for weeks between the Finance Ministry and Raj Bhawan and presented the same not before the last day of the Budget session, obviously to escape debate in the Legislature.