VACB seeks permission to probe Sivasankar

 thehindu.com  08/02/2020 16:32:19 

The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) appeared poised to conduct a preliminary inquiry against M. Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The agency has reportedly sought the sanction of the government to conduct prefatory scrutiny into charges of corruption levelled against the IT Department by Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, among other petitioners.

Mr Sivasankar had headed the department before his temporary removal from service last month. The bureaucrat had come under a cloud after some quarters linked his name to Swapna Suresh, the second accused in the UAE-consulate related gold smuggling case.

A committee headed by Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta had found Mr. Sivasankar culpable of official misconduct for having recommended Swapna to a post in the State-run Space Park project. The officer has denied any wrongdoing.

Mr. Chennithala had accused the IT Department of having violated anti-corruption regulations and the process of open bidding to arbitrarily award a software start-up company the lucrative contract to develop a smartphone application to enable customers to purchase liquor in-person from State-run outlets and bar hotels.

Circumventing PSC

Mr. Chennithala had accused Mr. Sivasankar of circumventing the Kerala Public Service Commission (PSC) route to appoint persons with a questionable qualification in various IT Department projects.

Mr. Chennithala had moved the Director, VACB, in May against the IT Department. He had repeatedly accused the agency, helmed by Mr. Vijayan, of having forsaken its role as an anti-corruption watchdog.

Sources said the VACB might have sought sanction for a preliminary inquiry into the allegations raised by Mr. Chennithala to pre-empt him from moving the court. Any move to investigate Mr. Sivasankar would finally be a political decision. The government was yet to reveal its mind in the matter, they said.

Nepotism angle

By some accounts, the VACB has displayed an interest in the official misconduct charge against Mr. Sivasankar. It related to his alleged intervention to secure Swapna a government job. The agency believed that the anti-corruption act covered such offences better.

Swapna's post as a marketing liaison officer in Space Project did not require a degree as a qualification. Hence, the forgery case against Swapna might not stand legal scrutiny. However, a charge of nepotism under the Prevention of Corruption Act might stand against her employer for having violated employment exchange norms to enable a backdoor appointment, an official said.

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