The Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) on Saturday registered an FIR against unidentified persons in connection with the alleged embezzlement of funds of Delhi Jal Board (DJB) worth Rs 20 crore, according to the officials.
According to the ACB, in 2019 the vigilance department of the DJB discovered “serious fraud” and embezzlement of DJB money by the officials/agencies concerned.
“The Vigilance Department, after scrutinizing the documents seized from the Revenue Department of DJB, has concluded that the preliminary investigation into the matter reveals embezzlement of DJB funds amounting to Rs 20 crore and above,” an official statement said.
The ACB said that the department would investigate the role of the DJB officials and other private players in the alleged embezzlement that it claimed took place between 2012 and 2019.
Detailing the case, the ACB officials said that the DJB had awarded the work of setting up automotive bill payment collection machines at different locations in different DJB offices to Corporation Bank (now Union Bank of India) for a period of three years.
It was alleged that the bank involved a private agency for the setting up of kiosks and collection of bills from various locations in the city. The contract is said to have been extended from time to time till the time the alleged fraud was detected, in October 2019.
“The matter was immediately brought to the notice of the Bank for recovery of the amount collected from the e-Kiosks, which the Bank had failed to deposit in the bank account of DJB during the above said period, along with penal interest and other liabilities. However, despite protracted deliberations at the senior level all this while, the Bank is apparently reluctant to return the money embezzled by its vendor to cause substantial financial loss to DJB,” the statement said.
The vigilance department of the DJB also said that the initial probe established embezzling of funds.
Earlier in September this year, Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena directed the Chief Secretary to lodge an FIR against Delhi Jal Board officials and others for embezzlement of Rs 20 crore, said a statement.
The LG has also instructed that Officers/Officials of the Delhi Jal Board involved in the above siphoning of funds may be identified, their responsibility fixed and a report on the action taken thereof to be submitted within 15 days, as per the statement.
In a blatant case of corruption amounting to substantial financial losses to DJB, cash amounting to over Rs 20 crore collected as water bills from individuals, went to a private bank account rather than DJB’s bank account for several years, as per the statement from the office of the Delhi Lieutenant Governor.
As per the statement, the DJB appointed its banker, Corporation Bank to collect water bills on its behalf through order in June 2012 for three years and the same was renewed further in 2016, 2017 and even in 2019, after the fraud was detected.
The statement further points out that the bank, in turn, in total violation of the terms of the contract and in the knowledge of DJB officials, engaged a private agency M/s Freshpay IT Solutions Pvt. Ltd. for collection of cash and cheques and for deposition of the same in DJB’s bank account.
It was noticed while extending the contract of the bank beyond October 10, 2019, when Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal was the Chairman of DJB, that grave irregularities had occurred regarding delayed/non-deposition of cash by the bank during the period of contract from August 11, 2012, to October 10, 2019, the statement from LG office further said.
It was observed that a number of Rs. 20 crore (including interest, penalty, etc.), though deposited by the consumers had not been transferred into the DJB’s Bank Account. Despite knowing all this, the Board headed by Kejriwal further extended the contract of Corporation Bank and in turn that of M/s Freshpay IT Solutions Pvt. Ltd., which was working as the bank’s collection agent, till 2020, said the statement.
The statement further said that what is even more damaging is that, rather than making the erring vendors pay the swindled Rs 20 crore and punishing them, the DJB extended their contract and increased their service fee from Rs 5 to Rs 6 per bill.
Also in baffling contrivance, DJB criminally relaxed the T+1 (Transaction +1) norm that made it mandatory for the vendor to deposit the cash collected from the people in the account of DJB bank account within 24 hrs of the collection this further helped the vendors swindle cash.
Subsequently, it was found that bills collected from the people of Delhi in cash were deposited in the Federal Bank and from there it was transferred to the private account of one M/s Aurrum E-Payments Pvt. Ltd., rather than getting deposited into the DJB’s Bank Account.
The above arrangement, i.e. deposition of DJB’s cash in some private bank account of a third party was in clear violation of the contract agreement between DJB and Corporation Bank.
With ulterior motives of siphoning cash, the Corporation Bank had tacitly approved the above arrangement and the DJB officials in connivance did not object to it, despite the fact that this move had put DJB funds at risk, the statement pointed out.