THREE SENIOR officers of Haryana forest department will face trial in a case of embezzlement and misappropriation of funds, with the state government granting sanction to prosecute them for a scam in connection with the esrtwhile UPA government’s flagship rural employment scheme MGNREGA in Ambala district. The scam had come to light in 2010, soon after the state was honoured with a national award for excellent implementation of the scheme in the district. The case relates to misutilisation of Rs 25 crore by forest officials during the execution of works from 2007- 2010.
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According to documents accessed by The Indian Express, the government has recently given sanction to prosecute three senior officers in the rank of divisional forest officer (DFO) after receiving record from the State Vigilance Bureau (SVB) including investigation report and judicial papers.
“…it is revealed that Sh. Jagmohan Sharma, HFS, the then DFO, Ambala, has misutilised the funds of MNGREGA amounting to Rs 25 crore, Rs 95 lakh and embezzled the amount in his official capacity,” mentions R R Jowel, Haryana additional chief secretary (forests), in one of the prosecution sanction orders issued on December 22, 2016.
The government has also given approval to prosecute two other HFS (Haryana forest service) officers – Parashant Sharma and Rajesh Rana – under sections 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document), 120 B (conspiracy), 204 (destruction of document), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
A senior officer of the SVB said Monday that they had initiated the process to prepare challan to put the same before the court. The officer further said that they have also received sanction to prosecute three junior officers of the forest department and deputy superintendent of the Ambala deputy commissioner’s office.
In 2010, the inquiries conducted by the then additional deputy commissioners (ADC) of Ambala, Wazeer Singh Goyat and Sanjeev Verma had spelled out how the works were not executed despite being shown on paper.
As many as 16 works related with afforestation works involving an expenditure of more than Rs 80 lakh were shown to have been undertaken under the scheme but Goyat, an IAS officer, had found that in reality only nine were executed. Later, the probe was handed over to the SVB, which had indicted some IAS officers also. According to the SVB report, the senior bureaucrats kept releasing the grant to Jagmohan Sharma even after Goyat and other bureaucrats exposed the irregularities.
Funds misused, plans remain ‘on paper’
A panel of officers in 2010 had also indicated misuse of money provided under other schemes related to Shivalik Development Board, plan for herbal parks and schemes of forest department as “the money of multiple schemes was shown as utilized for the similar work” in Ambala.
Giving example, the panel had stated that the aforestation of around 1,000 plants along Ambala cantonment was shown with an expenditure of Rs 1.26 lakh but during inspection at site, no work was found executed. The panel also did not find even a single plant at a site in Panjokhra (Ambala) beat though 1,660 plants were shown on paper.