Additional Chief Secretary to probe treasury fraud

 thehindu.com  08/02/2020 17:50:15 

The Finance Department on Sunday ordered a comprehensive probe by Rajesh Kumar Singh, Additional Chief Secretary (Finance), into the July 27 incident where a senior accountant at the Additional Sub Treasury, Vanchiyoor, illegally withdrew 2 crore from the Special Treasury Savings Bank Account (STSB) of the District Collector. Lapses on the part of treasury officials which enabled the embezzlement will come under the ambit of the investigation, according to Finance Minister T. M. Thomas Isaac.

The Treasury Savings Bank (TSB) accounts of M.R. Bijulal, the accused senior accountant now on suspension, and his wife have been frozen. Of the 2 crore, the accused had transferred 60 lakh to another account from which withdrawals were made. The department has ordered banks to freeze the accounts to which cash transfers were made.

The accused has not been taken into custody yet.

Accounts handled by the accused during postings at other treasuries will go under scrutiny. The department would also scrutinise cases across the State pertaining to cancelled treasury cheques, the Minister said.

Troubleshooting steps

Simultaneously, the department has kicked off a series of troubleshooting measures. The treasury software will undergo security/functional audits to pinpoint loopholes as part of this exercise.

For the government, the incident has raised a number of disturbing questions. The Finance Minister, in a Facebook message on Sunday, hinted at reforms for preventing the recurrence of similar crime.

The accused had transferred 2 crore from the STSB account to his personal TSB account on July 27 using his user ID and password. However, the transaction required the approval of a senior officer. The accused got it passed using the user ID and password of a sub-treasury officer who retired on May 31.

Rules require deactivation of user IDs and passwords when officers retire. This security procedure, apparently, was overlooked. Action would be taken against officers responsible for the oversight, the Finance Minister said. The department would also probe whether passwords could be deactivated automatically when an officer retired, he said.

Secondly, the accused had deleted the transfer after removing the money from the STSB account. This technically reinstated the money in the Collectors account. But Bijulals account did not show a corresponding deduction. In such a scenario, the transactions will not tally and the Day Book  a daily register of payments and receipts  cannot be closed. This discrepancy had, in fact, led to the discovery of the crime.

This, again, throws up other questions, according to the Finance Minister. Why did it take two days for the discovery to be made, and whether the treasury was closed on July 27 without resolving the discrepancy. The investigation will look into all these issues.

Investigations by the Joint Director, Treasuries, (in charge of vigilance) and the police also are progressing. The Vanchiyoor police had registered a case on Saturday.

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