An internal audit by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has pointed to an organised fraud in the Freedom Fighters Pension Scheme,also known as the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme.
The audit report,submitted in January this year,showed there were many bank accounts where the pension was credited earlier,but which suddenly ceased to exist. A fresh database of freedom fighters emerged during the audit conducted by the MHAs Internal Audit Organisation.
The audit had inter alia brought out inadequacies in the execution of this scheme and alerted on the possibility of an organised fraud as there were several instances of inadmissible payment of pension like cases of double payment to an individual,wrong payment,drawl of state freedom fighter pension from Centre,drawl of pension even after death etc, said the report,a copy of which is with The Indian Express. In June 2011,The Indian Express had reported that the MHA had found irregularities in the pension scheme.
Among several other discrepancies,the audit report has noted that the addresses of 6,478 of the total 42,624 pensioners are not available. It has also listed several instances where the names,addresses and bank account numbers of the pensioners are same,but the pension payment orders are different. In all these cases,the audit draws attention to discrepancies in five banks State Bank of India,Indian Bank,United Bank of India,Bank of India and State Bank of Hyderabad.
According to the report,each case of fraud would cost the government over Rs 2.5 lakh per annum.
The State Bank of India,which distributes 45 per cent of the pension,earlier provided records of 18,640 pensioners. But the number came down to 15,734 after verification. There are 2,561 accounts which had been shown earlier in which amount was being credited,but have not been shown now. There are 3,577 new PPOs which have been shown now in the database provided by SBI,but had not been shown earlier. And there are 2,825 names which existed earlier but are not there in the latest database, says the report.
The audit found similar discrepancies in other banks too.
Following the report,the freedom fighters division of the MHA had instructed the banks to make recoveries in cases of inadmissible payments along with penal interests. But no action has been taken yet.
The Rs 14,000 per month pension scheme,introduced in 1972, is very categorical about the eligibility conditions,which includes at least six months imprisonment,confiscation of property,or permanent incapacitation.