Book Scam: Punjab Minister Indicted

NEW DELHI (TIP): A government-instituted inquiry into the allegations of financial irregularities in the purchase of school library books and science kits in Punjab has found the state government guilty of misappropriating Central funds meant for the purpose by flouting financial norms mandated under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA).

The committee, while establishing financial irregularities worth Rs 41.68 lakh, found that out of this money Rs 39.33 lakh was paid to a book dealer named M/s Friends Enterprises in an unauthorised manner. The books he supplied were not age appropriate and comprised content not fit for instruction to elementary (Classes I to VIII) level students. The committee calculated a financial loss of Rs 41.68 lakh on the grounds that this amount was actually spent by schools on purchase of library books in violation of financial norms.

Punjab Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in all released Rs 928.24 lakh to districts for the purchase of library books with a direction that books be purchased from Language Department or Punjab State University Textbook Department. However, schools bought books worth around Rs 40 lakh from Friends Enterprises, a private dealer. A sum of only Rs 2.25 lakh was spent on books from Languages Department.

How the remaining money was spent is a matter of investigation, HRD Ministry sources said. Indicting state Education Minister Sikander Singh Maluka in the book scam, the Central team which HRD Minister MM Pallam Raju constituted on June 6 said in its report to the government that procurement procedures were violated because centralised procurement was ordered by the minister against decentralised purchases which are mandated under the SSA and the RMSA.

“The procurement of library books for primary and upper primary schoolchildren by a three-member committee constituted with the approval of state education minister is not as per the procurement procedure prescribed in the Manual on Financial Management and Financial Rules and Regulations 2004 adopted for SSA, Punjab,” states the report.

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Reaching the same conclusion on science kits bought by Punjab under the RMSA, which covers children from Classes VIII to X, the four-member Central team said, “The committee set up by the orders of Punjab Education Minister for procurement of science kits exceeded its brief. Procurement was against the Manual of Financial Management and Procurement for the RMSA.”

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