Covid-19: Lokayukta orders ACB probe in Goa's 'Labourgate'

Panaji, Sep 16 (IANS): In an order on Wednesday, the Goa Lokayukta has directed the Anti-Corruption Branch of the Goa Police to file an First Information Report (FIR) to probe a scam in which "ineligible persons", including local panchayat members were provided financial benefits meant for construction workers, who were stranded in Goa in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its order, Lokayukta PK Mishra has also said that if the police probe hints at involvement of politicians in the scam linked to the Goa Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Scheme, the investigation may be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

"An FIR shall be filed by the ACB, Goa against unknown persons for conspiracy to siphon out funds of the Goa BOCW Welfare Funds to members of the public with a view to distribute largesse by stuffing the beneficiary register of the fund with beneficiaries who are not building and other construction workers (BOCWs) with a view to securing benefits offered under the welfare scheme by falsely holding out that they are BOCWs when they were not," Mishra said in his order, following a complaint filed before the Lokayukta by member of a regional political party.

On March 28, the Labour Ministry of the Goa government had announced a one-time relief package of Rs 6,000 each for 15,000-odd construction workers, who were impacted by the restrictions imposed in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The package was announced under the Goa Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board Assistance Scheme.

However, the investigation conducted by local NGOs revealed that many of the beneficiaries were not construction workers, but elected and former panchayat members, house-wives, meat store owners, taxi drivers, etc. The scam was referred to as 'Labourgate' by the Goa Opposition.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had subsequently admitted that faulty data could have led to ineligible persons availing benefits of the scheme meant for construction workers and had promised an enquiry.

In its order, the Lokayukta has also advised that the ACB should take sample checks of beneficiaries of the scheme on a random basis for the purpose of investigation.

"Cases may be registered against fake applicants who have fraudulently represented themselves as BOCW," Mishra said in his order.

"...if the investigations point to the possible involvement of high officials and politicians, subsequent investigations can be entrusted to the CBI," the order also said.



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Title : Covid-19: Lokayukta orders ACB probe in Goa's 'Labourgate'


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