UMERKOTE: The Forest department in Nabarangpur is under radar over a pond project under MGNREGS after the district rural development agency (DRDA) recommended action against the Dabugaon range officer and forester for misappropriating funds.
Project director of DRDA, Nabarangpur Ratnakar Sahu has written to the Panchayati Raj and Forest departments seeking appropriate action against the officials for their involvement in the corruption. It has also recommended recovery of the embezzled money from the two forest officials.
The agency has also sought strictures against the Divisional Forest Officer for lack of monitoring and supervision of the MGNREGS project.
The DRDA recommendation is based on the report of a 10-member team formed by the district administration to investigate the irregularities in digging of a pond in Badapanjariaguda village under Dabugaon forest range. Sources said that in the financial year 2020-21, a grant of Rs 9.24 lakh was sanctioned for digging a pond in Badapanjariaguda under MGNREGS.
However, it was alleged that the wages were paid without carrying out any work. In its records, the Forest department showed to have paid over Rs 1.06 lakh to labourers as wages from October 12 to November 1 last year. E-muster rolls were generated and fund transfer orders also made for payment of wages.
When the irregularities came to the fore, the Forest department hurriedly started pond digging work in Badapanjariaguda in the dead of the night with help of a JCB machine earlier in June. However, local villagers protested the use of machine and stopped work.
While the then Dabugaon forester Ram Chandra Jani was placed under suspension, no action was initiated against range officer Seturanjani Gamango.
The matter was raised in the district development coordination and monitoring committee (Disha) meeting following which, chairman and local MP Ramesh Chandra Majhi directed the district administration to form a team to investigate the corruption charges against the forest officials. Collector Dr Ajit Kumar Mishra directed the PD, DRDA to inquire into the matter.
The 10-member investigating team conducted field inquiry and team found that the pond digging project did not have a proper order sheet nor the work was mentioned in the case records which was in violation of the provisions of MGNREGS. The probe report stated that Gamango also failed to show the necessary documents to the investigating team.