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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Punjab post matric scholarship scam: Money did not go to ‘ghost institutions’, inquiry finds money trail of Rs 39 cr

Sources linked to the probe claimed that the inquiry has found the private colleges that received the payment, adding that the list also includes colleges linked to Congress leaders.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh | September 18, 2020 12:07:41 am
post matric scholarship scam, ghost institutions, Chandigarh news, Punjab news, Indian express newsThe report of this probe, submitted by Jaspal Singh to Chief Secretary said that money trail of Rs. 39 crore was traced. (Representational)

The inquiry into the alleged Rs 63.91-crore Post Matric Scholarship scam has found money trail of Rs 39 crore that was alleged to have gone into accounts “ghost institutions”.

Sources linked to the probe claimed that the inquiry has found the private colleges that received the payment, adding that the list also includes colleges linked to Congress leaders. While the money trail has been established, it is yet to be ascertained if the money was wrongly disbursed.

The inquiry report was submitted by a panel of three officers including Jaspal Singh, KAP Sinha and Vivek Partap Singh to Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan on Wednesday evening.

The probe had been ordered by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh after the alleged misappropriation of money was pointed out by Additional Chief Secretary Social Justice, Empowerment and Minorities, Kripa Shankar Saroj in an official communication to the Chief Secretary earlier. Saroj had held his department’s minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and a Congress MLA, B S Dhaliwal, responsible for the alleged scam. The CM had then entrusted the inquiry to the CS, who had formed a panel of three officers.

The government is so far tight-lipped about the inquiry report. The Chief Secretary has to submit the report to the CM with her comments, in a day or two, said a source.

Sources added that the account of the central grant worth Rs 39 crore was “not missing” as was stated by Saroj in his communication. They said that after going through massive record of the department, the panel was able to trace the money trail.

“There is a list of colleges. A few of these are run by Congress leaders,” a government functionary said.

They indicated that the inquiry has also brought under the scanner the role of Kripa Shankar Saroj also who was the secretary in the same department when a scholarship scam took place during SAD-BJP regime. In his report to Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan, submitted on August 21, Saroj has 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.”

Further, he had stated: “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.”

“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 had stated.

Saroj had also said that it was learnt that Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal, IAS, and the 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. Union Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot has also ordered an inquiry into the alleged scam.

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