Leaked audio clip exposes corruption in water supply board

BENGALURU: A 15-minute audio clip has brought out the stink in the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB).
A recording of a telephonic conversation between Audit Officer (AO) D Byranna and the Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) of Bangalore East G D Somashekhar exposes the corruption at various levels in one office resulting in revenue loss running into crores for BWSSB. The conversation was in Kannada.
Remarks made by Byranna reveal that the East-2 Sub-Divisional Office alone caused a loss of `250 crore. This sub-division covers Hoodi, Marathahalli, AECS Layout and surrounding areas.
“A similar situation could prevail across many of its sub-divisions across the city, with varying amounts.

The clip has revealed the malpractices that took place in just one office. What is even more damaging is that AOs who went to investigate it have now been embroiled in the corruption,” said a top official.
The conversation was recorded by the AEE when the AO indirectly sought financial gratification to omit names of staff in the sub-division in an inquiry report by the BWSSB’s audit department into irregularities at the office. Express had highlighted this episode in a report on October 20.   
The full recording made available to Express, already made the rounds in the official WhatsApp group of BWSSB and has now landed at the Anti-Corruption Bureau office too.

In a conversation with the AEE, the AO alleges that buildings were given water connections illegally without collection of pro-rata charges (one-time payment for new water connections) from owners, thereby causing a loss to the board. The officer states that old meters were being unnecessarily replaced with new meters to erase recordings of pending bills. Water Inspectors and Assistant Executive Engineers pocketed an additional `1 lakh per month by indulging in such activities, alleges Byranna.
The reasons behind Somashekhar recording the conversation and releasing it on an official WhatsApp group have also come to the fore now. According to a BWSSB source, “Somashekhar was posted as AEE just a month ago and was being asked by Audit Officers to pay up for the corruption his predecessor indulged in. The unfairness of it all must have enraged him and he decided to go in for an expose to save himself.” The post was previously held by N C Kantha, the source said.
The AOs B G Krishna Kumar and Byranna have been asked to go on leave after the audio was made public. Their inquiry report had declared Somashekhar, Assistant Engineers S B Ramesh and Hanumanthganti, and
Water Inspectors Hareeshwar and Lakshman Naik to be guilty of malpractices. They have all been suspended and further probe is on.

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