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Education

JNU Teachers Allege Faculty Member Suspended to Cover up Financial Fraud, Protect Vice-Chancellor

The matter had been in knowledge of the administration since May 2021, and no member of the JNU executive council was allowed to see even a single page of the fact-finding committee report, they claimed.

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New Delhi: The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) on October 11, Monday accused the varsity administration led by vice-chancellor (VC) M. Jagadesh Kumar of covering up a case of alleged misappropriation of research funds.

It claimed that the suspension of a faculty member on charges of financial embezzlement of over Rs 88 lakh was “orchestrated” by the vice-chancellor to hide his own “inaction” and the true scale of financial irregularities.

In a statement, the JNUTA claimed that on September 30, an emergency meeting of the university’s executive council (EC) had decided to suspend a professor and two officials and initiate criminal proceedings against them for alleged misappropriation of funds.

According to the Telegraph, they also alleged that the matter came up as an “additional agenda” and was not allowed to be discussed thoroughly in the EC meeting.

The daily reported that A.L. Ramanathan, professor with the School of Environmental Sciences of the university, allegedly raised bills beyond the sanctioned amount for certain research projects. The additional expenditure amounted to Rs 88 lakh. The varsity finance officials released the amount from the consolidated research funds. Varsity finance officer Samir Sharma was relieved from his post last week, over two years ahead of completion of his tenure.

The teachers told PTI that university’s finance officers are appointed from the Indian Audit and Accounts Services but from 2017 till date, the people serving as finance officers have no experience or expertise on the matter.

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The financial irregularities were brought to light by a fact-finding committee, which was constituted on July 7.  The teachers alleged that the irregularities had been in the knowledge of the administration since at least May 2021 or even earlier, and the matter was also discussed in the finance committee meeting on July 6. Thereafter a fact-finding committee was set up.

They claimed that no member of the JNU EC was allowed to see even a single page of the fact-finding committee report.

JNUTA secretary Moushumi Basu told the newspaper: “This mode allegedly involves procuring false bills of consumables from actual or shadow vendors, getting them approved, and pocketing of the payment made for the same by all those involved without anything being received in exchange by the university/project.”

The Telegraph also reached out to Ramanathan but he declined to comment on the matter.

“Ideally, when there is a case of financial bungling of this nature, an enquiry is set up by the university. The accused persons are issued chargesheets and the enquiry committee recommends actions. The enquiry can widen the investigation too. But in this case, the decision was taken to send the case to the chief vigilance officer without any discussion in the EC,” Mazumdar told the daily.

The association alleged that the move to relieve the finance officer should have been discussed in the EC meeting; however, it was not done to protect him and the vice-chancellor.

According to D.K. Lobiyal, former JNUTA president, bills of over Rs 2.5 lakh are sent to the vice-chancellor for clearance. “It is not clear how many bills were approved by the vice-chancellor. Hence a proper enquiry is required at the level of the university,” he told the daily.

The newspaper emailed a query to VC Kumar on the matter and awaiting his response.

(With PTI inputs)