Chowkidar swindles Rs 38.30L from council’s forest royalty

SHILLONG, June 21: The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council has decided to go soft on a plantation chowkidar Franklin Khymdeit for misappropriating an amount of Rs 38.30 lakh he had taken from the forest royalty the council had received during 2012-2013 fiscal.
The KHADC executive committee has decided to deduct Rs 10,000 from the chowkidar’s salary every month to recover the stolen money. There was no announcement of any legal action against the accused. “He confessed to the misappropriation to the inquiry officer,” KHADC Chief Executive Member Titosstarwell Chyne told reporters here.
Chyne also said the council decided to penalise the chief forest officer (CFO), T. Saiborne since he is the head of the forest department of the council.
“A penalty of Rs 5.30 lakh will be levied on the CFO. We are deducting Rs 1 lakh every month from his salary with effect from March 2022,” he said.
Chyne said this case ended after the High Court of Meghalaya directed the inquiry officer to complete the probe and submit the report to the executive committee. “We have acted according to the recommendations of the inquiry officer,” he said.
Earlier, a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India for the year ending March 31, 2013, revealed the council had suspended four KHADC forest officers in March 2017 on charges of short deposit or misappropriation of forest royalty amounting to Rs 38.30 lakh.
The report was tabled during the budget session of the council in March.
According to the report, the secretary of the council was directed to draw disciplinary proceedings against all the four officers in the case.
The audit observed that the council, in violation of Rule 13 (1) of the United Khasi Jaintia Hills District Fund Rules, 1952, failed to inform the short deposit or misappropriation to the AG (Audit), Meghalaya, immediately after the incidence of misappropriation.
“In response to the request of the AG (Audit), Meghalaya, seeking records relating to the misappropriation case in November 2017, the secretary of the executive committee in December 2017 expressed his inability to furnish the same since the said records were under the custody of the Additional Judge with the ongoing inquiry of the case,” the CAG report stated.
In reply, the council secretary said the departmental inquiry revealed a short deposit of royalty of Rs 5.30 lakh during 2012-2013.
It was further said that based on the order of the executive committee of the KHADC (May 2018), the CFO was demoted and the amount was being recovered from his salary while three suspended officers have been exonerated. “However, since records were not made available to audit, the actual amount of short deposit of forest receipts against Rs 38.30 lakh as mentioned in the initial inquiry and recovery there against could not be ascertained during the audit,” the report said.
While the grounds on which the three suspended officers were exonerated were taken up with the secretary, the latter did not provide any information on the plea as the matter was sub-judice.

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