In the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Odisha often witnesses allegations of misappropriation of funds meant for the job scheme. In yet another such alleged MGNREGA scam in the State, a forest official of Nabarangpur has been accused of embezzlement of lakhs of rupees.
As per reports, in 2020-21, Rs 9.24 lakh was pegged for the digging work of a pond near Badapanjiriguda village under Dabunga forest range of Hatibeda Panchayat in the district. However, it is alleged that the money meant for the pond was withdrawn by the forest official without any work or even payment to those included under MGNREGA to dig the pond.
Though the MGNREGA website shows that a pond has been dug in the said village, no work has been done at the site. Besides, the website shows that Rs 106812 has been paid to the labourers, but they denied of being paid or even worked for any such project.
"I have not received any payment for the pond work. I have received money for a drain work undertaken by the forest department but they are yet to make full payment," said a labourer from Badapanjiriguda, Trinath Ganda.
"Around Rs 1 lakh was needed for the pond work when the drain work here was about to be completed. We had then decided to begin the pond digging work after completing the drain project. However, we came to know about money being withdrawn by the forest official and hence, we stopped the pond work," said Sanjit Harijan, president of forest protection samiti in Badapanjiriguda.
Meanwhile, the DFO has assured an impartial investigation into the allegations and immediate action against those found guilty.
"A team is investigating the matter. It will also visit the work site for check measurements. Action will be taken against the accused, if found guilty, within a week," said Magar Dhanaji Raoso, DFO, Nabarangpur Forest Division.
Later in the day, the accused forest official was suspended by the DFO. The DFO further informed that action will also be taken against others who will be found guilty.