Delhi L-G orders probe: Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena has ordered the lodging of an FIR against officials of the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), a bank, and a private company for allegedly embezzling Rs 20 crore in water bills, sources at LG office said on Saturday.
The DJB vice chairman and senior AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj welcomed the move, saying Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had also recommended a probe into the matter after it was brought to his notice by the then chief executive officer.
“We welcome all such probes. In this matter, allegations are against some officials of the central government's Union Bank and some of those of the DJB. 'All should be dealt with strictly. We do not have any problem,” he told reporters while replying to questions at a press conference at party headquarters. The LG has sought an action taken report on the matter within 15 days, the sources said.
The matter had first come to light in 2019 with the allegation that Rs 20 crore collected in water bills from consumers was not deposited in the bank account of DJB, they said. Despite the allegations, the contract of the company involved in the collection of bills, which it did in cash and cheques, was extended, they claimed.
The LG has directed the chief secretary to have an FIR lodged in the matter against the DJB and bank officials after identifying them as well as the private entities involved, sources said.
He also asked the officials to ensure the recovery of funds at the earliest, they said. After taking charge as Delhi LG in May this year, Saxena has ordered a string of inquiries related to matters of alleged corruption in different departments of the Delhi government.
The AAP dispensation has attacked him, alleging that he was interfering in the working of the elected government at the behest of the BJP-led central government. The LG has given nod for Anti Corruption Branch(ACB) probes into alleged irregularities in the construction of seven temporary hospitals during COVID and the construction of classrooms in Delhi government schools.
He also recommended CBI probes into alleged irregularities in the excise policy of the government and forwarded a complaint of corruption into DTC bus procurement to be linked with an ongoing investigation by the agency.
Saxena also recommended the suspension of several Revenue department officials for alleged sale of government land in North and South Delhi to private parties. On the DJB issue, a source said, "In this blatant case of corruption amounting to huge financial losses to DJB, cash amounting to over Rs 20 crores collected as water bills from individuals went to a private bank account of a third party rather than DJB's bank account for several years."
Instead of recovering the money and punishing the guilty, DJB allegedly extended the contract of the company by a year and also raised the service fee paid to them apart from relaxing the terms of the contract, the sources claimed.
The DJB had appointed the bank to collect water bills on its behalf through order in June 2012 for three years. It was further extended in 2016, 2017 and then again in 2019 even after the fraud was detected, they said.
"The bank in turn had in total violation of the terms of contract and in the knowledge of DJB officials, engaged a private company for the collection of cash and cheques and deposition of the same in DJB's bank account.
"It was noticed while extending the contract of the bank beyond October 10, 2019 that grave irregularities had occurred regarding delayed and non-deposition of cash by the bank during the period of contract from July 2012 to October 10, 2019," the source said.
An amount of Rs 20 crore, including interest, penalty and such other sums, though deposited by the consumers, had not been transferred into the DJB's bank account, the sources said.
Despite knowing all this, the Board extended till 2020 the contract of the bank and, in turn, that of a private company that was working as the bank's collection agent, they said. Also, the DJB increased their service fee from Rs 5 to Rs 6 per bill and relaxed the norm that made it mandatory for the vendor to deposit the cash collected from consumers in the DJB bank account within 24 hrs of collection, the sources claimed.