An Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, Rashmita Panda, has been accused of spending Rs 70 lakh in six months for the renovation of her official residential quarters in Rourkela. The Odisha Government has now transferred the District Collector of Sundargarh for defrauding the government by misusing government funds.
Panda is a 2010 batch Indian Administrative Service officer, who has in the past held posts of the Vice-Chairperson of the Rourkela Development Authority, Commissioner of the Rourkela Municipal Corporation and CEO of the Rourkela Smart City Authority. She will now serve as the Director of Employment-cum-Chief Executive Officer of the Odisha Skill Development Authority.
According to the notification issued by Odisha government, Nikhil Pawan Kalyan, a 2012 batch IAS officer will replace Panda. Prior to this, Kalyan was heading Dhenkanal Collectorate.
The information came to the fore after RTI activists filed requests alleging the officer renovated her official residence by spending Rs 68.57 lakh. Pradip Pradhan, convenor of the Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan alleged no tenders were called for the renovation. The project cost of each head of expenditure was deliberately kept below Rs 5 lakh to avoid the tender process, he added.
According to the details of the expenditure, which was available, Rs 4.04 lakh was spent on mosquito nets; Rs 4.45 lakh on plastic emulsion painting work, Rs 10 lakh on external and internal electrification and Rs 4.44 lakh on construction of drains and a portico.
Construction of a guard room, raising the height of the boundary wall, construction of an additional dining room, and fixing of aluminum sliding windows all were estimated at Rs 4 lakh each.
Responding to the allegations, Panda told Outlook, “This is a complete lie. I never spent money allotted from the government fund for the renovation of the house during my stay in Nabrangpur.” Talking about the residential quarter in Rourkela, she said she found the house in a dilapidated condition and took the responsibility upon her to renovate it. She also asserted that it was not for her “personal interest” at all.
“We are all public servants, and we can never stay in a single place for such a long time. So there is no question of misusing the government funds at all,” she furthered.
The Modi government in December 2017 had instructed all the IAS officers to declare their assets, including income and property details, failing, which they would be denied vigilance clearances necessary for promotions and foreign postings.
Apart from filing such returns, IAS officers also have to take permission before accepting gifts above Rs 5,000. They also have to inform the government, in case they accept gifts from family and friends exceeding Rs 25,000.