RTI activist claims credit for inquiry against district official

Directions to Commissioner based on 60 RTI petitions, says activist

A Right to Information Act activist from Nalgonda, Kothapalli Sivaji, has filed at least 60 petitions to study service rules of government servants, with focus on a senior official in the district’s rural development office, related transfers and postings, to now claim “the officer has committed fraud”.

“The official for the past 12 years, in the name of deputation, has been violating Foreign Service Rules and even misled district collectors and State functionaries. He chose a department that has more temporary and contract workers, and also committed several frauds and diverted public money,” he said in his letter, with some 60 attachments.

Mr. Sivaji had posted the set of his investigation to several departments, including the CMO, the Chief Secretary, the District Collector and the Vigilance Department requesting an inquiry.

According to him, the said officer lacked the eligibility to be posted as the ‘project director’ in Warangal, and had colluded with State functionaries to continue in the deputed department for several years.

“There was no information to the parent department, Agriculture. He continued his deputation for more than 10 years, but the RTI replies show this is his fifth year. Following allegations of corruption, in 2019 he got himself transferred to Nalgonda citing family reasons,” he shows.

Elaborating on the charges of financial impropriety, Mr. Sivaji alleged that in one instance the officer, while posted in Warangal, collected nearly ₹ 2 crore from the Watershed Development Fund for construction of cluster buildings and produced bills. However, there were no tenders or e-procurement procedures, which is mandated for any works exceeding ₹ 5 lakh, this is one among other deviations, he says.

The official awarded tenders to known persons in the conduct of plant nurseries, resulting in sub-standard quality of works, and diversion of public money continued in Nalgonda, he alleges.

According to the activist, “he (the officer) shall be deemed to have resigned from the service” for deputation violations under the Foreign Service rules.

Asked why he was probing into the particular officer’s works, whether he had personal interest or was bearing a grudge, Mr. Sivaji said he was part of the Praja Sankshema Pathakala Parirakshana Samithi, founded in 2012. In the past too, similar findings exposed irregularities in a Central scheme leading to the suspension of a DWMA chief, he said.

The award-winning district officer, now facing allegations, when contacted for his version said he remained transparent all through his career and deputations and corresponding extensions were effected from time-to-time following government orders.

“Without the parent department’s consent, orders cannot be released and even salaries cannot be paid. How can I violate? This year too, I got my order for extension of deputation till July,” he said, while refuting arguments of corruption as just “wild allegations” to damage his image.

The officer confirmed to The Hindu that he neither knew nor meet the probing activist. However, he expressed suspicion that a terminated employee may be in the background.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sivaji showed his latest RTI replies from Secretary Agriculture and Cooperation Department B. Janardhan Reddy and Secretary Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Department Sandeep Kumar Sultania, directing commissioners in their department “for personal enquiry and immediate necessary action.”

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