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Southern States - Kerala Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Follow-up on anti-graft drive far and few

By G. Anand

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Dec. 3. The `delay' in registering cases and taking departmental action against Government officials accused of indulging in corruption could blunt the edge of the anti-corruption drive of the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB), according to top Vigilance Department sources.

From May 2002, the VACB had conducted eight State-wide surprise checks exposing corruption in municipal corporation offices, road transport offices, sales tax check-posts, sub-registry offices, Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) facilities and Excise Department and traffic police stations. Unaccounted money to the tune of lakhs of rupees and various methods of corruption were exposed in the surprise checks. Departmental action with major penalty was recommended against scores of Government officials in the wake of these raids.

However, disciplinary action against the officials accused of indulging in corruption by the VACB has been `far and few', according to top Vigilance officials. Only in a few cases have the Government departments forwarded disciplinary action taken reports to the VACB.

In several instances, the department heads had revoked the suspension of officials against whom the VACB had recommended action. ``In many cases the suspension period of accused officials was regularised as service,'' a senior official said. The official said that Government department heads seem to accept `without question' the explanation given by the officials against whom the VACB had collected incriminating evidence.

``We have rejected several of the action concluded reports send by the department heads. In some cases, the VACB has asked for a more impartial and objective enquiry,'' the official said.

For instance, official sources said that no cases were registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PC ACT) in connection with the `Operation Nirman' that exposed corruption and irregularities in the assessment of building tax and issuing of birth and death certificates at five municipal corporation offices in the State.

Though unaccounted cash was seized from several municipal office staff, the Government has settled for a Vigilance inquiry to evaluate the extent of revenue loss and `further verification' instead of ordering the registration of cases. In some cases, action against accused municipal staff was `limited' to adverse entry in confidential reports, sources said.

The corporation officials against whom the Vigilance collected evidence of corruption, including possession of unaccounted money, still continue in service, officials pointed out. The official said that several Vigilance inquiries ordered in the early 1990s are still pending in the department.

In the wake of `Operation Nirman', the Vigilance Department received scores of complaints from the public pointing out unauthorised constructions and irregularities in building tax assessment. In 18 such complaints, the VACB conducted surprise checks. Four unauthorised constructions were demolished at the instance of the Vigilance Department.

In one case, the Vigilance found out that the building tax for a tourist home owned by a prominent abkari contractor in Thiruvananthapuram had been `reduced by wrongly citing that the building was unoccupied'.

Similarly, in the `Operation Maruti' which exposed corruption at 20 road transport offices in the State, sources said that departmental action was being `delayed or diluted' against 60-odd officials who were placed under suspension following the Vigilance surprise check in August 2002. The Vigilance had stumbled upon unaccounted cash, illegal possession of RC books, presence of touts and irregular maintenance of records at the RTO offices. Three cases under the PC Act were registered and disciplinary action recommended against 48 officials.

``We have not accepted the action concluded reports forwarded by the Motor Vehicle Department in the case of 10 RTO officials against whom disciplinary action was recommended,'' a Vigilance official said.

Similarly, in the `Operation Shakthi' and the `Operation Vajra' which focussed on low tariff power connections procured by KSEB staff and private concerns, the KSEB Vigilance was yet to send the action taken reports on the recommendations given by the VACB, the sources said.

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