Scent of Scam in Scholarship Scheme
By Yatish Yadav - NEW DELHI
Published: 29th Dec 2013 08:19:22 AM
Yet another ambitious scheme, yet another scam. Massive bungling of funds has been unearthed in Manmohan Singh’s dream project, the Prime Minister’s Scholarship Scheme (PMSS) for Children of Ex-servicemen. A stray complaint led to scrutiny which showed that huge sums meant to finance professional education of selected candidates had been siphoned off by contractual employees of the Defence Ministry. Launched by the Prime Minister on November 14, 2006, as recognition of the contribution by armed forces, scholarships worth nearly `10 crore are given every year through the scheme.
The government had ensured that funds for selected candidates from engineering, medicine, dental, veterinary, MBA and MCA disciplines were directly transferred through Electronic Clearing System. The funds under are allocated to the Defence Ministry by the PMO on an annual basis and is used to finance 4,000 students every year.
Documents accessed by The Sunday Standard reveal the scam was first detected on November 13, 2013, when Kendriya Sainik Board Secretariat under Ministry of Defence received a complaint from the daughter of an ex-sergeant stating that she had not received scholarship money for her final year computer engineering course. Defence ministry officials, who started examining transaction files to find out where the error lay, stumbled upon a suspicious account. The money meant for the beneficiary was credited to account number 10********8.Further probe unravelled a bigger scam indicating that the fictitious account number was in fact receiving regular flow of money from the PMSS funds.
The bank account was frozen and details of recent transactions from the PMSS funds were obtained from the bank to compare them with the account of the PMSS beneficiaries. “It was found that there were four such unauthorised accounts in which these scholarship amounts had been credited,” documents said.
Sources said Account Assistant Anuj Kumar was confronted by the Defence Ministry officials with evidence, however, he denied any wrongdoing. Later, he called up a superior officer admitting the fraud. “He also named another employee Shiv Chandra Kumar who was part of the same gang that was misappropriating National Defence Funds. Inspection of all transactions for the last five to six years till September 2013 has been launched,” a source added.
Revealing the modus operandi of the swindlers, officials said details of payments are forwarded to the bank in soft and hard copies. After clearing the payment, the bank holding PMSS account used to transfer the data to defence ministry in soft copies.
“The culprits used to change the account numbers of some candidates before handing over the PMSS data CD to the bank and revert to original numbers after the transactions carried out by the bank through ECS,” an official said.
Documents suggest the ongoing probe in the scandal has so far unearthed four suspicious accounts which were used to siphon off `32 lakh from the PMSS money.
Banks were asked to freeze all four accounts and police complaint against two employees was lodged by the ministry. Subsequently an FIR was filed and the culprits arrested. Their homes were raided and documents related to banks accounts seized.
“The banks had been requested to provide all old PMSS transactions data for verification with the PMSS account records to detect any more such unauthorised accounts and the extent of unauthorised transactions. The transaction details of the salary accounts of all PMSS employees are also being obtained to check for any unauthorised transactions,” Defence Ministry documents revealed.