A three-member inquiry panel constituted by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to look into the alleged Rs 63.91-crore Post Matric SC Scholarship Scam has given a clean chit to Cabinet Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot while holding officials of the department responsible for paying Rs 7 crore out-of-turn to a number of private institutions in violation of rules.
The committee, comprising three officials Jaspal Singh, KAP Sinha and Vivek Partap Singh, has stated that the money trail of Rs 39 crore, which was alleged to have gone into accounts of ghost institutions, has been traced. The irregularity has been found in payments worth Rs 7 crore, which was disbursed to 13-14 private institutions out-of-turn, multiple sources told The Indian Express. One of the institutions is based in Abohar, they said.
“The minister’s involvement in the disbursal of Rs 7 crore is not made out as he is not the proposer of this disbursal. The proposal came from the officials at the level of director and deputy director in the (social justice) department,” a functionary of the government said.
Following the report, Amarinder has written to Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan to fix responsibility against the officials. “It was a decision of the Cabinet to provide the central grant to colleges on turn basis as and when the money was received. In this case, certain private colleges received preferential treatment and money was disbursed to them out of turn. This is violation of the Cabinet decision. The CS has been asked to fix responsibility,” said the functionary.
The government has already transferred whistle-blower, the Additional Chief Secretary (Social Justice, Empowerment and Minorities) Kripa Shankar Saroj, to Animal Husbandry department after the inquiry report. Saroj had alleged the scam in an internal communication to the CS. Jaspal Singh, who was heading the inquiry panel, has been transferred in the social welfare department in place of Saroj.
The inquiry panel has also suggested systemic reports in the department so that such irregularities do not happen in future.
“There was no scam as was alleged by Saroj. There were no ghost accounts. The list of colleges to which the money was disbursed exist. Saroj was not able to check the accounts as it was a lengthy process,” the functionary said.
Saroj had held his department’s minister Dharamsot and a Congress MLA BS Dhaliwal responsible for the scam. Dhaliwal was the director of the department during the time the alleged scam had taken place.
In his report to Mahajan, submitted on August 21, Saroj stated that under the PMS-SC scheme the GOI sent Rs 303 crore to Punjab during February-March 2019. “Though the Directorate of Social Justice withdrew Rs 248 crore from the treasury, however, the department had then distributed this sum in an arbitrary manner. Significantly, records pertaining to Rs 39 crore are missing. Either this sum has been embezzled or paid to some ghost institutions.”
“Interestingly, an amount of Rs 16.91 crore was paid to such institutions against which the audit team had recommended a recovery of Rs 8 crore, thus costing the state exchequer Rs 24.91 crore. If the amount of recoveries which the audit team had concluded are added to this Rs 16.91 crore, then these officials had cost the exchequer to the tune of Rs 24.91 crore. The minister and his team of officers, worked in tandem,” the report further said.
“Payments were made to even those institutions, which had been found out as defaulters by the FD audit team. Instead of effecting recoveries from those institutions, heavy payments were made at the level of deputy director Parminder Singh Gill,” the report added.
Saroj had also said that it was learnt that Dhaliwal, then an IAS officer and also then director in the department, was having an agenda to enter politics and contest the seat of an MLA. Gill, the then director in-charge of all important schemes of the department, was reporting directly to the minister.
The allegations of scam against the minister in August end had caused embarrassment to the government. The Opposition parties had sought sacking of the minister. The Centre had also ordered an inquiry into the alleged scam as central grant was involved. That inquiry is also on. The CM, on his part, had asked the CS to get an inquiry done. She had constituted the team of three officials.
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