Govt officials involved in misappropriation of pension funds, claims Local Fund Audit report

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government may have been boasting about transparency but in reality the very officials who are part of its administrative machinery are involved in rampant misappropriation of crores of rupees meant for pension of senior citizens and financial assistance to disabled, revealed a report tabled by the Directorate of Local Fund Audit (DLFA) in the recently concluded Assembly session.

The report has presented data pointing towards gross embezzlement of public money by government officials from panchayat to block level.

The DLFA report published for the year 2017-18 has revealed that government officials in charge of distributing pension for senior citizens and disabled persons under the Madhu Babu Pension Yojana during the 2016-17 year have embezzled funds worth around Rs 40.60 lakh from 20 blocks of the State.

The data stated that Loisinga block of Bolangir district has registered the maximum amount of funds misappropriation to the tune of Rs 10.8 lakh.

This apart, the government officials have managed to siphon off Rs 29 lakh in 71 blocks of the State by showing extra disbursement of pension money than the actual expenditure. The condition is quite severe in panchayat level where the officials have managed to misappropriate Rs 1.05 crore by quoting extra expenditure in 854 panchayats.

Not only that, the officials at 54 Gram Panchayats have embezzled Rs 54.18 lakh by not returning the left over money after distribution of the pension.

After the issue came to light, Opposition parties have now cornered the State government.

Terming it as an ‘incapable’ government which does not know anything else than self-promotion, senior Congress leader and AICC Secretary Sarat Rout targeted the ruling-BJD and said that its leaders and government officials are directly involved in the blatant embezzlement of the funds.

Slamming the State government on the matter, BJP leader and party spokesperson Golak Mohapatra said, “Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik should answer what has happened to his principle of 3Ts that he once urged his government officials to adopt as part of their role.”

However, BJD tried to play down the allegations levelled by the Opposition parties. Senior leader and party general secretary Sanjay Das Burma said, “There may be isolated incidents of misappropriation but the State government will deal with the issue with a firm hand.”

It may be mentioned that not only misappropriation, funds worth hundreds of crores are also lying unspent at panchayat and block levels.

According to available data, during the financial year 2016-17, while the State government had allocated Rs 12,826 crore, around Rs 6,150 crore are still lying unspent at the block level. During the same year, utilisation certificate (UC) for projects worth Rs 13,295 crore are yet to be submitted.

At panchayat level, around Rs 1744 crore out of the Rs 4,355 crore released for 4,815 panchayats in the State have remained unspent.