The Delhi Lieutenant Governor on Saturday 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 huge 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. 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 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.
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. What is even more damaging is that, rather than making the erring vendors pay the swindled Rs 20 crore and punishing them, the DJB not only extended their contract but 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.
LG has taken a serious note of the fact that despite the fraud coming to light, the DJB not only did not make any effort to recover the cash and punish the guilty but convolutedly extended the contract of the embezzlers by another year, thereby establishing prima facie connivance. The default on the part of the Bank in the deposition of cash collected from the Kiosks was in the notice of DJB and Bank officials right from the beginning; however, no attempt, whatsoever, was ever made to arrest the malpractice or fraud being committed by the Private Party with the tacit approval of the Bank and DJB officials.
That despite such serious deficiencies, the contract was further extended with the relaxed conditions, indicating malafide on part of said officials with a view to causing serious financial loss to DJB. One is also left to wonder as to why wasn’t the DJB doing routine weekly reconciliation of its accounts, as is the norm.