Defalcation of Rs.2.70 crore in Himbra bridge

The scourge of corruption and misappropriation in Government funds continues to haunt Jammu and Kashmir despite claims of the Government in having zero tolerance towards such undesirable and criminal acts. At the outset, ‘Excelsior’ has continuously been articulating the importance of adopting a culture of austere audits and inspections regularly to keep at bay acts of frauds, scams, committing irregularities , defalcation and pilferage in sensitive UT Government departments . Technically speaking, the cost of such audits would be quite negligible , absolutely insignificant, as compared to whooping extents of the loss caused to public treasury by means of perpetuating acts of irregularities and frauds in the absence of such recurring and regular audits. In a latest incident of a brazen misappropriation of over Rs.2.70 crore having surfaced in context of a bridge construction of which dates back to 2015 , the said ”project” was declared as financially ”closed” but physically still ”incomplete”. The vague contradiction and absurd classification of the status of Himbra bridge in Krimchi Mansar area in Udhampur is nothing short of camouflaging an absolute misappropriation with doubtful intentions which needs to be dealt with sternly.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has rightly taken a serious note of such a massive misappropriation in the construction of the said bridge and wants latest information in respect of such “lame” projects both in the Jammu as well as Kashmir division. In other words, the information is sought for those projects which have been financially ”closed’ but still lying incomplete on ground. There are certain pertinent questions which must be answered. The project having been approved for an amount of Rs. 3.95 crore and the entire amount having been released to the then Executive Engineer , R&B Division Udhampur in 2015 was perhaps never physically inspected by any higher authority immediately after more than half amount disbursed to ascertain the stage of construction and to verify whether stage wise funds released were spent strictly as per the plans and whether the works in fact completed ? When actually did it come into limelight that the contractor was paid just Rs. 1.25 crore against the allotted cost and whether the contractor had in fact done as much work for which he was paid the amount or he had done more but was paid less ? In that case , how could the contractor keep silent and not stake the claim for the rest of the amount?
When did it percolate that there were fishy ”book adjustments” made to facilitate misappropriation and showing other liabilities cleared from the funds meant exclusively for the bridge under reference. It is learnt that some sort of preliminary “enquiry” was initiated and, perhaps, report too submitted but to whom and what was the outcome of such enquiry is still not known. Whatever the case, total absence of monitoring mechanism and austere post disbursement appraisals and scrutiny not only lead to such defalcations but over the period, the ”cases” are kept under the carpet to later hoodwink the higher authorities in whose notice the matter comes to frustrate the possibilities of the culprits getting punished . It is also surprising that no sooner a confirmed case of misappropriation is known in a department than as against putting services under suspension pending enquiries of the suspects , nothing is done which emboldens some more others to indulge in such practices.
While the bridge in question has all the funds allocated for its construction exhausted and spent, people of the area suffer on account of its non-completion. It is possible that there can be number of such cases where the project works are shown having been financially ”closed” but physically left incomplete and where possibilities of misusing of funds or misappropriation thereof having occurred , needs to be known in full for which the Lt. Governor has written to the Chief Engineers of both the regions . However, instead of having such information from within the concerned department , the same should have been entrusted to some investigating agency assisted by technical team related to R&B matters for better and quick information.