Corruption in Swachh Bharat raises a stink

Govt silent on Collector recommending action against Senior Technical Consultant of Sarva Sikhya Abhiyan, Balangir.
A newly constructed toilet lying in unusable condition | Express
A newly constructed toilet lying in unusable condition | Express

BALANGIR: Some serious clean up awaits Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)’s implementation in Balangir district. Despite detection of a multi-crore scam in toilet construction under SBM, the State Government has showed no inclination to act.

Huge irregularities were found in construction of toilets and utilisation of the funds and the Collector had recommended departmental action against Senior Technical Consultant (STC) of Sarva Sikhya Abhiyan (SSA), Balangir Debashish Pany, who is in charge of implementing the project in the district. However, the Government continues to sit pretty.

Under the mission, a target to construct 1,259 toilets in 14 blocks at an estimated Rs 18.22 crore of the district was set. Cost of each unit was valued at Rs 1.53 lakh. While junior engineers were in charge of constructing 367 toilets in seven blocks, technical consultants appointed by SSA looked after the rest seven blocks.

Of the  otal 1,259 toilet projects, Coal India Limited (CIL) and MCL funded  998 toilets. Similarly, GAIL and Swachh Bharat Kosh (SBK) provided funds for construction of 193 and 68 toilets respectively. Of the 998 toilets of CIL and MCL, only 669 have been completed so far, while 122 and 32 projects have been constructed from the funds of GAIL and SBK respectively.

The deadline for completion of the toilet project was May, 2016. Sources said just two blocks - Turekela and Puintala - have submitted utilisation certificates (UCs) for only 100 projects worth Rs 1.17 crore. While Rs 3 crore is available in the account of Balangir SSA, the office is awaiting UCs worth a whopping Rs 14 crores.

Moreover, Khaprakhol and Agalpur blocks have been found to have withdrawn excess amounts for toilet construction with due recommendation of the STC who is authorised to check and verify all works besides recommending fund release to the district project coordinator.

This apart, irregularities were detected in construction of toilets by the junior engineers too. Besides complaints of sub-standard quality of construction work, toilets were found to be half-built in many cases. Moreover, many completed toilet projects are not in usable condition. Poor quality of work was detected in Luhuramunda school of Agalpur block, Sindhibahali school of Khaprakhol and Karlamal village in Patnagarh block.

After the irregularities came to fore, the then Balangir Collector Ashish Thakre had expressed his dissatisfaction on the progress of the projects and fund utilisation. Thakre also sent a letter to the Commissioner of School and Mass Education recommending action against the STC on October 7 last year.

Sources said the School and Mass Education department directed Project Director of SSA to initiate departmental action against Pany. However, the direction is yet to be carried out. District Project Coordinator of SSA Dhananjaya Mohapatra acknowledged that a number of complaints have been received on the poor quality toilet construction work. Necessary action will be taken against those involved in the irregularities, he added.

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