Claiming Rs 600 crore-scam in Odisha co-op bank, RTI activists move Lokayukta

Bhubaneswar: Alleging a scam to the tune of over Rs 600 crore in Odisha State Cooperative Bank (OSCB), a team of RTI activists today lodged a complaint with the Odisha Lokayukta demanding an urgent inquiry into the scam.

The RTI activists claimed that NABARD has recently found anomalies in the crop loan interest subvention claims made in the last 5 years.  Odisha State Cooperative Bank failed to adhere to the guidelines and claimed excess interest subvention of Rs 168 crore in 2016-17 which it received from Government of India and Odisha government through NABARD.

The RTI activists further alleged that additional interest subvention claims were made and received from government of India through NABARD against the claims for the year 2016-17. On scrutiny of the interest subvention claims made by bank, NABARD observed that OSCB had made an excess claim and received subvention of Rs 56 crore in 2016-17. OSCB fraudulently lodged its cost-cum-interest subvention claims with government of Odisha and received the same for the financial year. The total excess claim received from Odisha government stood at Rs 112 crore for 2016-17 financial year, the RTI activists alleged.

Moreover, ex- MD of OSCB, Tusharkanti Panda fraudulently showed excess interest subvention claims from Government of India and Odisha government to the tune of Rs 600 crore for the period between 2012-13 and 2016-17, which the NABARD has already mentioned in its inspection report, said RTI activist, Pradip Pradhan.

“There have been gross financial irregularities and a scam of Rs 600 crore in OSCB for which we have lodged a complaint with Lokayukta,” said Pradhan.

Apart from illegal interest subvention, there have been other financial irregularities in OSCB in printing of RuPay cards for farmers, procurement of computers and others, Pradhan added.

Responding to the allegations, former OSCB MD Tusharkanti Panda said that the first inspection report of NABARD is wrong. Showing the second report, Panda termed the allegations levelled against him as baseless.

“Those who conducted the inspection had not presented the facts correctly. But when the report was scrutinised by the nodal office in Mumbai, those were deleted. MD has no role as all the claims are made through a system,” said Panda.

The then Cooperation minister Damodar Rout, on the other hand, alleged that the total scam by OSCB will not be less than Rs 800 crore. Though I had written for a Vigilance probe, it was not done, Rout added.

“There was a scam of Rs 800 crore and I demanded an inquiry, but it was overlooked,” said Rout.

As per reports, nearly Rs 8,000 crore is provided annually as loans to 25 lakh farmers through the OSCB. The farmers are extended loans at 1% interest for amount up to Rs 50,000 and at 2% interest for loans between Rs 50,000 and Rs 3 lakh. OSCB, after getting the funds from NABARD at an interest of 4.5%, disburses the amount to farmers. The loss on account of the differential between the interest rates is then claimed from the Government of India and Odisha government through interest rate subvention.

It is a worthwhile mention that the State finance department had refused to release Rs 27 crore after getting a whiff of the scam in October 2017. Meanwhile, the State Cooperation Minister could not be contacted for his comments on the matter.