Bengaluru: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has flayed Kerala Director General of Police (DGP) Lokanath Behera for allegedly diverting funds — meant for modernisation of the police force — to build villas for senior police officers.
According to a CAG report, tabled in the state assembly Wednesday, Behera diverted Rs 2.81 crore from Rs 4.33 crore, which was allocated to build accommodation for junior police officers.
The CAG report also pointed out that proper procedures were not followed in procuring high-end bullet-proof vehicles.
This apart, the auditor also found 25 INSAS rifles and 12,061 bullets missing from the armoury of the Special Armed Police Battalion (SAPB) in Thiruvananthapuram.
However, according to a Kerala Police statement issued Thursday night, no INSAS rifle was missing from the SAPB.
“The Crime Branch is once again doing a physical cross-verification of all the weapons issued to Special Armed Police,” stated the press note.
According to the CAG report, Rs 4.33 crore was earmarked for the police department, which was meant to be spent in building quarters for 30 upper subordinates.
The Kerala government transferred the funds in September 2015.
But the CAG report revealed that instead of building quarters for the junior officers, a proposal was sought by the police department from a company for the design of villas for the DGP and Additional Director Generals of Police (ADGPs).
“The state police chief diverted Rs 2.81 crore, meant for construction of upper subordinate staff quarters, for construction of villas for the state police chief and ADGPs,” the CAG report stated.
The CAG scrutiny further revealed that in November 2017, an estimate of Rs 3.66 crore was given by the police department, which included construction of a camp house and a villa for the DGP and four villas for senior officers at the very same site that was identified for construction of the quarters for junior officers.
An explanation has now been sought from the state government as to how the funds were diverted without its approval, according to the report.
The CAG report also observed that Behera had erred in buying high-end bullet-proof vehicles.
The Kerala Police had been allocated Rs 1.26 crore in 2016-17 to buy bullet-proof vehicles for policemen, VIPs and those under Z security cover.
The state government agreed to release the funds on the condition that the standard tendering process was followed.
It has now been found that the police department purchased two high-end bullet-proof vehicles “illegally and in conflict with the Stores Purchase Manual”.
The CAG said Behera bypassed the rules and issued orders to buy two Mitsubishi Pajeros worth Rs 1.10 crore in total.
“The State Police Chief (SPC), without calling a tender as required under the Stores and Purchase Manual, constituted a technical committee, which evaluated vehicles from three manufactures and recommended the purchase of Mitsubishi Pajero from M/s Hindustan Motors Finance Corporation, at a price of Rs 55.02 lakh… Subsequently in August 2017 a supply order was placed for two bullet-resistant vehicles without inviting tenders at a cost of Rs 1.10 crore,” according to the report.
The Kerala DGP had at the time informed the government that the police did not invite tenders for security reasons, the report said.
“Without the approval of the state government, he released Rs 33 lakh to the car vendor. The government, however, has refused to validate the irregularity in the purchase process,” the report stated.
The decisions made by the DGP — one to bypass the tender process and second to divert money, which was intended for the modernisation of the force — is a violation of the central directive, according to the report.
According to the ‘central directive’, the police department cannot divert money meant for modernisation of the force.
The CAG also said the police could have spent the money to buy bullet-proof vehicles and devices for commandos deployed for anti-Maoist operations.
“Anti-Maoist operations in the dense forests of Palakkad, Wayanad, Malappuram and Idukki suffered due to the dependence of police forces on analog communication equipment. The government of Kerala failed to make timely payment of spectrum charges and obtain licences from the the Government of India for procuring digital mobile radios,” the report said.
Bullets and guns missing
The CAG also found that 25 INSAS rifles and 12,061 live cartridges have gone missing from the armoury of the Special Armed Police Battalion in Thiruvananthapuram.
As many as 250 drill cartridges (bullets used for training purposes) were also found to be missing.
The CAG has accused the police department of attempting to cover up by not just altering the records using white correction ink and over-writing, but also by replacing the missing bullets with empty shells.
The department did not even report about the missing ammunition, the CAG report said, adding that the government has now been asked to urgently trace them.
Demand for a judicial probe
The opposition UDF has sought a judicial probe by a sitting judge into the allegations raised by the CAG.
“The CAG is a constitutional body and has raised serious allegations. We want a judicial inquiry into this. The police, who are responsible for the safety of the people, have put our safety in the hands of private players. We will not accept it. These corruption charges need to be investigated,” former MLA and Congress leader P.C. Vishnunath told ThePrint.
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala Thursday said he sent a letter to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, seeking sacking of Behera and a high-level probe into the matter.
“Nobody knows why he is protecting Behera. Rifles and cartridges are missing and there are other incriminating revelations in the CAG report. All of it should be probed,” he said.
Vijayan Thursday told the media he didn’t receive any letter from Chennithala.
Sunil Raj, CAG’s accountant general, had told the media Wednesday: “Our role is to find faults and place them before the authorities. The Public Accounts Committee will also look into it.”