Baijnath panchayat ‘embezzles’ funds, builds walls without nod

Ravinder Sood

Palampur, August 9

Large scale misappropriation of public funds in Panjala panchayat of Baijnath block in Kangra district from 2016 to 2020 has come to light. Kulwant Singh, Block Development Officer (BDO), Baijnath, has urged the Director Rural Development for a detailed inquiry by the State Accounts and Quality Control wing of the department.

The BDO told The Tribune that as per the report received from new panchayat secretary Ankush, the then panchayat pradhan and the secretary had withdrawn over Rs 58.16 lakh from the State Bank of India branch at Baijnath between 2016 and 2021 for different development works. However, only Rs 37.98 lakh was utilised and the remaining Rs 17.92 lakh was not accounted for anywhere and no utilisation of the amount was shown in the records. Despite best efforts, Rs 17.92 lakh could not be reconciled.

He said that the accounts register and other records for 2019 to 2020 was also missing from the panchayat office. He had informed the higher authorities in this regard, he added.

Kulwant Singh said that on the direction of the higher authorities, he had lodged a complaint against the panchayat pradhan and the secretary at Baijnath police station. Besides, a detailed report was also sent to the District Panchayat Officer, Kangra, and the Deputy Commissioner, Kangra, but till date neither the pradhan and the secretary had been directed to deposit the amount in the state exchequer nor they had been penalised.

He said that he had inspected most of the development sites of the panchayat and found that in the Tiala to Bag Kuhal work, Rs 1.24 lakh pertaining to the cost of cement, sand, stones, shuttering and concretising work was drawn from the state treasury. However, the panchayat had not executed any such work.

Likewise, in another case, the panchayat constructed a village road with material collected with the help of labour under MGNREGA but the then panchayat pradhan submitted fake bills showing that material was purchased from somewhere else and also managed to get the payment from the treasury. In yet another case, an old house was shown as a goat shed in the village and the money was withdrawn from the state treasury.

Besides, the panchayat also constructed retaining walls in the village without the approval of the authorities concerned. As per the MGNREGA guidelines, there was no provision for the construction of retaining walls before 2018.

Courtesy: Tribune News Service

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