Another rot in shape of a huge scam surfaces in SMC

Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC)

SRINAGAR — In the continuation of the skeletons coming out of the closet of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), ever since former Mayor Junaid Mattoo was elected to the post, now a major money scam has surfaced in Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), through which officials have transferred an amount of over rupees six crores, meant for construction of washrooms, into the accounts of party workers.

Official documents suggest that on January 16 this year, Housing and Urban Development Department released rupees six crore and twenty five lakh in favour of Mission Director, Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) through an Order No. 27HUD of 2020; Dated: 16-01-2020.

As per the documents, the funds were released under Capex budget 2019-20 (five months Budget from 31 October to 31 March 2020) under the scheme Additional Contribution of IHHLs (Individual Household Latrines) and CT/PT of Urban Development Sector.

As per the release order duly signed by the Dheeraj Gupta, Principal Secretary Housing and Urban Development Department dated 16 January 2020, the funds were released into the official account of Mission Director, SBM.

Official sources said that the amount of funds to the tune of six crores was transferred into the accounts of the individuals, allegedly close to the officials of the SMC.

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“These washrooms were actually never constructed on the ground and the majority of the funds were transferred into accounts of party workers,” they said.

Several citizens said that the washroom scandal is so huge that only the Anti-corruption Bureau (ACB) should probe it as officials have illegally made money out of nothing.

Earlier, ACB had registered a case against officials of the SMC and an NGO ‘M/S Social Welfare India’ for alleged fraud, corruption and embezzlement of public money in the construction of individual household latrine (IHHL) units under Swachh Bharat Mission.

The ACB said the NGO had to construct 218 IHHLs, at Rs 17,490 per unit, and nine twin storage pits, at rupees 12,000 per pit, but not a single unit has been constructed by the NGO and the engineering wing of the SMC submitted the false verification report.

The officials and fake NGO owners were booked and the case is being heard by the High Court which recently rejected the bail of the accused.

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Pertinently, SMC has been in news for the last two years, ever since the new corporation body was elected in 2018 and ousted Junaid Mattoo was elected to the chair of city Mayor.

Several scams ranging from appointments of workers, illegal promotions of employees, permission for construction of high-rise buildings were given against the Master Plan and building permission rules were reported since then and newer ones are surfacing from time to time.

While cases against irregularities are under the probe of the Crime Branch and ACB, and several persons close to the top functionaries, have garnered a future, who till yesterday were among nobodies, many of these scams and several officials are under the radar of investigating agencies.

Chairman, Swachh Bharat Mission – SMC confirmed that the said amount has been illegally withdrawn without seeking his written permission before using or disbursing the funds compulsory under Swachh Bharat Mission.

Meanwhile, several attempts to seek the comments of SMC Commissioner Ghazanfar Ali and to know his version about the newly surfaced washroom scam failed, as he didn’t respond to the repeated calls made to him.

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