Judiciary, the only hope for justice in the matter related to financial fraud in DTOs

Transport department negligence led to heavy financial loss of nearly Rs 492 cr.

Patna: Bihar government faced criticism from some corner for sanctioning Rs 500 crore for conducting caste based census whereas no one took serious cognizance of the scam to the tune if Rs 492 crore committed in the Transport department, a revenue fetching sector of any state.

The Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) in its latest report , though strongly mentioned about the irregularities of the Transport office, but no concrete action, government apparently took to reprimand the guilty of the irregularities.

A poor state like Bihar which observed revenue deficit of Rs 11,325 crore in the financial year 2020-21 and is estimated to observe a revenue deficit of Rs 37,207 crore and fiscal deficit Rs 22,511 crore in 2021-22, is now looking forward towards judiciary for justice as the matter related to financial fraud was being heard by the Patna High Court.

The negligence of the transport department employees and its officers have put the department under heavy financial loss.

According to official reports the employees of transport department deliberately neglecting their duties  did not realise the tax from vehicles.

The district transport officers also did not renew the fitness certificate of 22684 vehicles.

The road tax were not deposited between January 2017 to January 2020 following which the government faced revenue loss of rupees 48 crore 36 lakhs.

The transport department employees also ignore to prepare the database of the defaulters of road taxes and other taxes related to the vehicles making heavy loss of Rs 17 crore 97 lakh to the state exchequer.

Registration symbols were also provided without collecting one time tax to the vehicle owners following which the department faced financial loss of Rupees 1 crore 44 lakh

Tax to the tune of Rs 95 crore 44 lakh was not realised during licence renewal due to some technical snag in the software.

The report revealed that the department failed to spend the subsidies and the unspent amount kept on increasing from 2016 till 2021 indicating that the department did not execute some of the schemes.

In the year 2016-17, 14% of the subsidy could not be spent which increased to 22% in 2017-18 and finally to 47 % in 2020-21.

Rs 359 crore were released to the department in the year 2020-21 along with Rs 42 crore as supplementary grant but it could hardly spent Rs 218 crore.

The details of Rs 492 crore embezzlement  is as follows :

Rs 15.52 vehicle tax not realised

Rs 0.40 crore tax not collected from three wheelers

Rs 11.87 crore one time tax not taken from the tractors

Rs 15.73 Irregular recovery of surcharge

Rs 1.52 penalty not realised

Rs 189.40 crore fitness not collected

Rs 1.80 crore commercial taxes remained unrealised

Rs 255.98 crore not collector as other taxes.

Observation of CAG in brief :

Concerned District Transport Officers (DTO) did not ensure renewal of fitness certificates of 22,684 vehicles during January 2017 and 
January 2020. This resulted in non-realisation of 48.36 crore (testing fee of 796.74 lakh, renewal fee of 45.37 lakh and additional fee of Rs 46.94 crore). 

The CAG further disclosed that despite availability of information of non-payment of motor vehicle taxes by defaulter vehicle owners, the DTOs did not monitor or review tax table of VAHAN to generate tax defaulter list. As a result, no demand notice was issued by the DTOs to the tax defaulters and consequently tax of Rs17.97 crore remained unrealised. 

Meanwhile, the PIL filed before Patna High Court with a prayer for directing for Central Bureau of Investigation CBI enquiry into the entire scam and for enforcement directorate action against the officials of the DTO involved in the scam was being heard.

In petition it has been alleged that thousands of  stolen vehicles were registered without payment of tax and submission of required documents through DTOs and in connivance with DTO officials, data entry operators and officials of the National Informatics Centre ( NIC) resulting into loss of nearly Rs 300 crore to the state exchequer.

It further states that the vehicles registered without submission of requisitie documents facilitated the registration of stolen vehicles leading to serious threat to the National Security and Law and Order in the state and in the entire country.

It has been further stated that even after being informed about the gross irregularities the higher authorities of the DTO did not institute FIR and no step was taken.

Through the petition, the petitioner has tried to draw the attention of the court towards collection of huge movable and immovable assets through corrupt means by the persons responsible for such illegal act.

According to the petition, the manual registration system was withdrawn in the year 2009 and software VAHAN I was introduced to handle the software on computers. Data entry operators having basic knowledge of handling computers were engaged mostly through Bihar state electronic Development Corporation.

The transport department in the same year also introduced the scheme of dealer point registration and block of registration numbers of the current series where allotted to them.

This system was discontinued from January 2, 2017 but the department did not cancel or withdraw the unused numbers lying with the dealers.

Later more advanced software VAHAN II was introduced which too was replaced by VAHAN IV in Patna on February 2 , 2018.

The PIL stated that unscrupulous elements in the department with the help of officials of NIC evolved a method and started alloting registration  numbers to such vehicles using the unutilised registration numbers previously allotted to the vehicle dealers. The registration numbers were fed to the new software against the engine number and chassis number of stolen vehicles and also to new vehicles without payment of tax and also without submission of requisite documents.

The computer operators and programmers in DTO office through a contractor took advantage of the flaw in the system and between 2019  to 2020 allotted thousands of registration numbers to such vehicles without payment of fee and collecting documents. They also printed the registration certificate in smart card.

As per the norms the motor vehicle inspector of the district verify the backlog entry and based upon his verification the district transport officer approve the entry.

The petition alleged that the NIC officials along with district transport officer and motor vehicle Inspector connived together and issued registration certificate in a smart card to the owner of such vehicles. The NIC officials in Collusion with district transport officer and motor vehicle inspector also manipulated the software to allow printing of Smart Card without payment of requesting tax and cost use lost to the state coffer.

The CAG during its audit of district transport offices detected the fraud in which district transport officer, motor vehicle inspector, data entry operators and NIC officials were allegedly involved.

The petition stated that the registration of  stollen vehicles as new vehicle is not only a serious offence but it is also serious threat to national security and has potential to cause law and order problem. Such vehicles can be used in criminal as well as Anti National activities and it would be difficult for the security personal to take any action against the real culprits as the actual owner of the vehicle could not be traced.

The petition further states that data entry operators and programmers have used their technical expertise  and they use the login ID and password of other employees of the transport department to grant registration to such vehicles in the name of backlog entry.

The petition mentioned that one of the data entry operators namely Sanjay Prasad who actively participated in this scam is director of two companies namely Amul Fields Private Limited and Patliputra Poultry Private Limited and has amassed huge wealth in the form of movable and immovable properties in his own name and in the name of his wife worth more than Rs 50 crores.

The data entry operator Sanjay Prasad was transferred to Gaya in 2016 but he did not comply with the orders and continue to work at the district Transport office Patna. He was again transferred to Nalanda in June 2021 but was  still working at DTO Patna. The petition said that Sanjay Prasad has been virtually controlling the district transport offices across the state as they have the password and user ID of their respective district transport officers.

Meanwhile sources close to the department confide that one Gautam Kumar, clerk in the DTO Patna, has been made the escape goat of the entire scam by the district transport officer, motor vehicle Inspector and the data entry operator Sanjay Prasad to  save their skin.

Gautam was held guilty by a three membered enquiry Commission comprising Deputy Secretary of Transport, ADTO, MVI and IT Manager Transport.Gautam was suspended on the basis of the report of the committee.

Apart from Gautam, DTO Ajay Thakur was also suspended based on the report of the committee., However  DTO Vikas Kumar executive assistant Shailabh Raj and Ajit Kumar, data entry operator Neeraj Kumar and programmer Ekta Kumari were also found guilty by the enquiry committee but surprisingly no action was taken against them.

However during explanation Gautam had informed that due to some work pressure of important work and in urgency of disposal of important matters related to DTO he had sometimes to share his user id and password to other data entry operators which he said might have been misused.

In his explanation letter he also stated that after coming to know about the irregularities he blacklisted such registration numbers to save the revenue of the state government as well as misuse of the numbers.

The sources said that had the IP address  been investigated through which which the user ID of Gautam was logged in , the actual culprits of the entire scam would have been exposed.