NIA probe unearths gross irregularities

R Dutta Choudhury
– The National Investigating Agency (NIA) has stumbled upon some glaring financial irregularities in the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council while probing into a specific case of politician-militant nexus in the hill district and only a thorough probe can unearth the details of such irregularities. Though Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, following widespread demands from different quarters and advice of the Union Home Ministry, announced the State Government’s decision to entrust the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the financial irregularities, the probe by the Central agency is yet to start.

Official sources told The Assam Tribune that the NIA’s mandate was very limited as it was given the task of probing only one case of politician-militant nexus. But while probing the case, the agency came across some glaring irregularities and in the chargesheet, the NIA stressed the need for probing the financial irregularities by the CBI.

Sources said that the NIA, during the course of the investigation, found a number of papers, which probed large-scale irregularities in the financial dealings of the council over the years. Sources said that all the financial norms and regulations were flouted blatantly and unfortunately, no step was taken to audit the accounts of the Autonomous Council to ensure financial discipline. Only recently, the Government has initiated steps to go for an audit of the accounts and concerned over the large-scale irregularities, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is planning to amend the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India to bring in more financial discipline in the Autonomous Councils formed under the provisions of the Schedule.

Some of the documents proving glaring financial irregularities in the NC Hills Autonomous Council, which were found by the NIA during the course of the investigation, are now in possession of The Assam Tribune and the documents proved beyond doubt that no financial rule was followed while taking out huge amounts of funds from the coffers of the Autonomous Council. Crores of rupees were taken out of the coffers of the Autonomous Council by giving orders on plain papers by senior officers and also by the Chief Executive Member and Executive Members of the Autonomous Council over the years and no one knows where the money taken out in such ways were spent. There have been instances when officers and CEM and EMs ordered payment to departments and firms only on their own pads without mentioning the projects against which the money was utilized.

In one such paper recovered by the NIA, one officer of the rank of Deputy Commissioner ordered the account cell of the Council to issue requisitions and cheques in favour of the PS to the NC Hills Autonomous Council Mission Director of Agriculture Mission and Executive Engineer of the PWD. Interestingly, the DC ordered issue of a cheque amounting to Rs 18.50 crore to the PS, NCHAC and though the money was released, no one knows where the amount was spent.

There have been a number of instances of contractors and firms giving receipts acknowledging receipt of huge sums of money on plain papers instead of doing so on the formal pads, which is a major financial irregularity.

Sources said that whenever an autonomous council is under the Governor’s rule, it is not unusual for the Governor to sanction any project. But it is unusual for the Governor to order release of specific amount of funds. In one of the papers recovered by the NIA, the Additional Secretary to the Governor’s secretariat wrote to the Administrator of the Autonomous Council that the Governor approved a detailed action plan of horticulture and agriculture and directed that an amount of Rs 1 crore should be released to the Agriculture department immediately. What is interesting is that the typed letter said that the Governor ordered release of Rs 1 crore and later the letter was edited with a pen and Rs 1 crore 50 thousand was released.

Sources admitted that only a thorough probe by an agency like the CBI can unearth the exact amount of the money siphoned off from the council coffers and bring to book those involved in the financial irregularities.