The two-year-long investigation into the alleged Rs 40 crore misappropriation in Karnataka’s Minor Irrigation department has finally concluded. The Criminal Investigation Department, on Tuesday, filed a 1.23 lakh-page charge sheet in the Koppala JMFC Court.
“The charge sheet has been filed against 60 persons, including 18 officials of the Minor Irrigation department. The officials had colluded with contractors and created fake bills, and within a span of four months, they had created thousands of fake bills and looted Rs 40 crore of public funds,” said CID DySP K Purushottam.
The CID has collected documents pertaining to the details of the contracts, the fake bills that were generated between October 2015 and January 2016, cheques, bank statements, witness statements, confessions and other evidence.
Between October 2015 and January 2016, Rs 40 crore was released to the Minor Irrigation department in Koppal district for dredging lakes before the monsoons set in. During this period, only a third of the 112 lakes were filled with water and the remaining were to be dredged.
As many as 18 officials from the Minor Irrigation department and 52 others, including contractors and government officials in various other departments, have been accused of creating 3,938 fake bills, pertaining to 172 piecework contracts for dredging the lakes, and transferring money – less than Rs 1 lakh at a time – to the bank accounts of various contractors. “They were transferring small amounts to avoid detection,” DySP Purushottam said.
The scam was brought to light after the Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha filed an RTI and obtained information about the development works completed in the district. The KPRS had accused the Anti Corruption Bureau officials of ignoring the multiple complaints filed by the organisation regarding the scam. KPRS had alleged that the ACB officials were colluding with the Minor Irrigation department. Soon after, the Kalaburgi district Executive Engineer was appointed to conduct an internal inquiry, and he submitted a report on the discrepancies to the state government on April 7, 2016.
The report suggested that thousands of fake bills were generated and crores of rupees were misappropriated. The case, which was being probed by the Kushtagi Police, was then handed over to the CID in 2017.
Soon after, 26 government officials were suspended, of which 17 were from the Minor Irrigation department. The officials – Premanand Kumar, former executive engineer; HD Jhadhav, former technical assistant; B Shivakumar, former assistant executive engineer; S Manohar, former assistant executive engineer; MH Pawar, assistant executive engineer, and Chandrashekhar S Kalburgi, first-division assistant in the Minor Irrigation department in Kushtagi division – were named as accused in the case after the CID raided their homes and offices in 2017 to gather evidence.
Similarly, several raids were conducted in the homes of Minor Irrigation department officials in Mysuru, Kolar, Vijayapura, Ballari, Davangere and Kushtagi.