June 2003 News

Farooq Swindled Public Fund: J&K Govt

7 June 2003
The Times of India

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government has dragged former chief minister Farooq Abdullah and some bureaucrats who served under him into the accountability net for misappropriation of public fund amounting to Rs 5.50 crore. The fund was reportedly earmarked for renovation of state property in New Delhi during the National Conference rule in 2001. The move is a step forward in the Mufti Mohd Sayeed's government effort to fix accountability at the highest level. During its first Assembly session in Jammu early in 2003, the PDP-led government had passed a legislation making even the chief minister accountable to public scrutiny. The Mufti government is yet to constitute the accountability commission required under the new Act. However, the general administration department (GAD) of the government had recommended action against the erring officials and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah for swindling public money. Abdullah has allegedly ignored rules in the allotment of renovation work of Kashmir House in New Delhi to Rena Rajput Singh of a non- existent firm M-s Mansara of Sunder Nagar. The architect was also awarded contracts for renovation and re-construction of the former chief secretary's official residence 'Fairview' at Gupkar road in and the circuit house at Srinagar as well as the CM's official residence and circuit house at Jammu, according to a senior bureaucrat in the Mufti government. To accommodate the Delhi-based architect, bureaucrats in the Abdullah government reportedly had the resident commissioner stationed in Delhi. The commissioner then faxed a message to former chief secretary Ashok Jaitley on March, 23, 2001, informing him that Abdullah desired to hire the services of Rena for upgrading and renovating the Kashmir House premises at 5 Prithviraj Road. The GAD had not even looked into the earlier note sent by Jaitley when it received the agreement prepared by Rena's firm from the chief secretary's office for urgent examination. The agreement was reportedly approved by a committee. According to the note prepared by the Mufti government, the project design prepared by Rena Singh of M-s Mansara projected an estimate of Rs 2.80 crore for repair works only. This excluded her consultation fee of Rs 15 lakh plus 5 per cent and payment of travel expenses by air and lodging in five-star hotels. Making observations on the previous government's violation of the set procedure, the PDP-led government has questioned whether Abdullah bothered to find out if Rena was recognised by the Delhi government and whether her services as an architect were worth the consultation fee of Rs 15 lakhs. The government note also points out that there are no papers to indicate the credentials of the designer and the basis on which she was chosen. After Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's approval to the note on May 21, the Jammu and Kashmir government has asked state vigilance organisation to register cases against five IAS officers including former chief secretary Ashok Jaitley besides subjecting Farooq Abdullah to the accountability commission or to the institution of ehtisab for inquiry.


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