A possible case of fraud was detected in 200 scholarship applications for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minority students in one particular school and scheme. The result was an anti-corruption branch investigation that eventually led to a delay of “a year-and-a-half” to disburse funds for 29,395 applicants, the Delhi Dialogue and Development Commission (DDC) report has revealed.
As reported by The Indian Express on Monday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in a note to Chief Secretary M M Kutty on June 30, said that files relating to more than 5 lakh such scholarships not being disbursed were “never put to my minister” between 2015 to 2017, and that “the elected government was kept in the dark”. Kejriwal also mentioned an inquiry by the DDC, ordered by him, in the matter.
According to the DDC report, an alleged fraud was “detected in 200-odd scholarships applications submitted by a private school” in October 2016. The matter was referred to the ACB. However, “the status of the case is unknown”. As a result, the DDC report states, “There are 29,395 applications for scholarships under four Delhi government schemes for 2015-16 still pending with the SC/ST Department for release of benefits. As per norms, these scholarships should have been released a year-and-a-half ago.”
According to files examined by the DDC, the fraud was “restricted to one particular school and to one particular scheme (for) reimbursement of tuition fees for students of SC/ST/OBC/Minority community”. While raising questions as to why “detection of fraud in one case” did not lead to “greater due diligence” but “complete abdication of duty”, the report says after the incident, “pending work” was not completed.
Moreover, a total of 11,322 applications for merit scholarship for students between Class I-XII in the year 2015-16 have been verified and approved, and a sanction order for disbursal of the “amount of Rs 1.53 lakh” was issued. It was, however, later withheld as the department of SC/ST asked for re-scrutiny of all the applications. But the Karol Bagh office of the department of SC/ST was sealed due to the investigation, says the report. “The re-scrutinisation of scholarship application of 11,322 students had not even begun until March 2017,” it states.
In a letter on February 10, 2017, the department “claimed that it required additional staff to complete the pending work” and requested to fill up 17 vacant posts in different ranks and sought the “creation of additional posts for superintendent”. There was no reply from the department of services, the report adds.
The report concludes, “What is astounding is that matters of grave importance such as additional staff, creation of new posts, etc were never escalated to the minister in-charge. The prospect of thousands of backward poor students was at stake, yet the secretaries concerned failed to display any sense of urgency.”