Everything is rotten in the Directorate of Information and Public Relations in Assam.
Total callousness rules at the department under the helm of its officer on special duty (OSD), Rajib Prakash Baruah, who was ornamented with the post after his superannuation instead of appointing a regular director with allegations that the department is rotting to its roots.
After the appointment anomalies that rocked the department where allegations are still raging of favouritism by Baruah with ‘divine blessings’ from the media advisor to the state chief minister, Hrishikesh Goswami, now a new scam relating to hoardings and advertisements have come to light.
It has come to light that in the name of hoardings, banners, posters and other mass media for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Assam visit, the controversial OSD of the Directorate of Information and Public Relations and his confidants, a prime conduit with the title of Baishya, have looted the government exchequer a hopping Rs 1,55, 66,000.
This major expose came to light in a report of the principal accountant general. Now, according to sources, Baruah and his company, in the directorate are in a catch 22 situation as they are asked to produce expenditure report of the mammoth amount allegedly spent in the name of hoardings during Prime Minister’s visit to the State.
Baruah was the additional secretary of the I&PR during 2017 and during that time on May 17 in the year 2017, when the sanction was issued for putting up hoardings, Baruah and company in place of 150 hoardings, allegedly issued fake bills for putting up 2,7003 in name of two debatable firms.
Through these fake bills, Baruah had shown payment of Rs 1, 81,25,000 to the two debatable firms. During that time, he was made the director in-charge of the Department allegedly under the blessing of the media advisor to the chief minister, Hrishikesh Goswami.
It has also alleged that Baruah had dished out government money to a couple of his favoured contractors for putting up the hoardings.
It has also been alleged, Baruah through his high-handedness has granted contract to two controversial firms for putting up 2553 hoardings across Kamrup (Metro) district without even caring to take to permission from the government.
Baruah through this alleged forged contract has siphoned off over Rs one crore from the state exchequer, according to the report of the auditor general.
Earlier, Baruah was embroiled in the appointment scam in the department which is alleged to be at par with the Rakesh Paul scam in the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC).
Notably, some time back a section of senior officers of the department had submitted a written complaint against Baruah alleging rude behaviour and using unparliamentary words with his staff.
In spite of all these, it is indeed ironical that the Sarbananda Sonowal that pledges for a corruption-free administration is turning a blind eye towards this officer who even after retirement is exercising his power to loot public money.