ED writes to Karnataka Governor, Lokayukta over alleged scam in KOMUL hiring

PTI, Apr 14, 2024, 1:54 PM IST

The Enforcement Directorate has written to the Karnataka governor and the Lokayukta seeking registration of an FIR and independent probe into ”systematic rigging” of a 2023 recruitment process in the Kolar-Chikkaballapur District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Limited (KOMUL) led by a Congress MLA under investigation in a money laundering case.

Official sources told PTI that the alleged ‘cash-for-jobs’ racket was unearthed by the federal agency during searches conducted by it in January against K Y Nanjegowda, a Congress MLA from Malur seat in Kolar district, and his associates.

They were raided as part of a money laundering investigation into an alleged illegal allotment of government land worth Rs 150 crore to ineligible persons.

The alleged recruitment scam pertains to September, 2023 when KOMUL announced hiring for 81 positions through a written test conducted by the Mangalore University.

The recruitment process, as per the ED, comprised a written test (85 per cent weightage) followed by an interview (15 per cent weightage) by a recruitment committee that was headed by KOMUL Chairman Nanjegowda, a director of the KOMUL board K N Nagaraj, Additional registrar from the cooperative department Lingaraju, a representative of the Karnataka milk federation B P Raju and KOMUL MD Gopala Murthy.

According to the ED, 320 candidates were chosen for interview in December, 2023 and a final list of 75 selected candidates was approved by the KOMUL board. These candidates were later sent for training ”without” publishing the results.

The agency, as per official records, has shared ”evidence” seized by it like ”tampered” OMR sheets, loose sheets containing names of the candidates and money collected from them, ”referrals” received from politicians for selection of their favoured candidates and digital data containing phone calls and WhatsApp chats that was seized during raids at the University and the directors of KOMUL.

These findings and ”evidence” have been shared by the ED last back with the Karnataka Governor, who is also the Chancellor of the Mangalore University, and the state Lokayukta establishment for registration of a FIR and conduct of an independent investigation, the sources said.

The Governor is understood to have written to the state authorities for a probe into these findings and allegations made by the ED.

The investigation, the ED claimed, has unearthed ”systematic rigging” of the entire recruitment process at KOMUL and Nanjegowda has emerged as the ”central figure” in this ”illicit cash-for-jobs” case.

The agency, after the January searches against the Congress MLA, had issued an official statement claiming it unearthed a ”scam” in a recruitment exercise of the KOMUL.

”It was noticed that recruitment committee of KOMUL chaired by K Y Nanje Gowda and four other members completely manipulated the interview process.” ”According to the board decision, orders were issued to the selected candidates and they were sent to training without making the final result public,” the agency had said.

It was ”admitted” by the directors of KOMUL and members of recruitment committee during the searches that seats were sold for money ranging between Rs 20-30 lakh per seat, the ED claimed.

It is also gathered that certain politicians have referred their candidates for selection and total of 30 such references were accommodated, it said.

”K Y Nanje Gowda being the head of the recruitment committee is actively and directly involved in sale of seats and manipulation of interview marks,” it said.

As per KOMUL, it is Karnataka’s second highest milk producing district organisation.

The ED in its report sent to the governor and the Lokayukta has alleged that the then Mangalore University registrar (evaluation), who was in-charge of the written examination, ”did not follow” the prescribed procedure of taking approvals from the Vice Chancellor for conducting the exam, outsourcing of printing and evaluation work, selection of exam centres, safety of OMR sheets and confidentiality of results among others.

It claimed in its report that the VC of the Mangalore University ”acknowledged” the ”gross misconduct” done by the registrar (evaluation) in ”manipulating” this KOMUL recruitment process as he (VC) wrote to state government authorities urging them to take cognisance of these irregularities.

It claimed that the interview process was ”manipulated” and officials of the KOMUL ”admitted” to these allegations during the questioning and recording of their statement under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The agency stated in its report that a director of KOMUL has ”admitted” to receiving Rs 80 lakh as part of this alleged recruitment scam while the former registrar (evaluation) and a private person accused of tampering OMR sheets also ”admitted” to have received Rs 6 lakh each out of the total Rs 20 lakh promised to them by KOMUL authorities.

”Evidence gathered during the investigation found the sale of seats in lieu of money and accommodation of candidates referred by certain politicians allegedly in lieu of money by manipulating their marks over the deserving candidates who were awarded poor marks,” the ED said.

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