Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jun 26:
He had rubbed the Odisha government on the wrong side repeatedly. So, it is perhaps only natural that very few are willing to buy the theory that the recent transfer of Principal Account General (AG) Amarananda Patnaik was a routine affair.
Coming as it does after the unceremonious way in which former DGP Prakash Mishra was first shunted out of his post and then prevented from becoming the CBI Director through some alleged string-pulling in the power corridors in Delhi by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, the transfer of Patnaik is being seen in knowledgeable circles as another instance of the bonhomie between the BJD supremo and the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. More so because it was as recently as May 3 that Amarananda Patnaik was promoted to the rank of Principal Accountant General (AG) while continuing to remain in charge of Odisha.
While the no-nonsense AG has embarrassed the Naveen Patnaik led on numerous occasions, what apparently proved to be the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back was the letter he wrote to the Chief Secretary recently seeking details of the income and expenditure of the Lord Jagannath temple administration from 2009 till 2015, including the expenses incurred on the Nabakalebara, for audit.
Already reeling under the impact of the widespread public outrage over the bungling of the Nabakalebara rituals in general and the Brahma Parivartan ritual in particular, an audit of the Nabakalebara accounts, which had the potential to reveal some financial impropriety, if not downright corruption, was the last thing the state government wanted.
Sensing the government’s discomfiture, the Congress, the principal Opposition party, has predictably pounced on the issue to launch a scathing attack on the Naveen Patnaik dispensation.
“Perhaps the State Government was under impression that Patnaik is going against their party. Now that it has been established that the state’s BJD and centre’s BJP have close ties, it appears that the central government has transferred them under the influence of the state government,” opined Leader of Opposition in the Odisha Assembly Narasingha Mishra.
BJP spokesperson Suresh Pujari was understandably evasive and sought to avoid talking about the motive behind the transfer. While admitting that the state needed an officer like him, Pujari was unwilling to get drawn into a discussion on the possible role of the Central government in the transfer.
“Patnaik was a leading figure, who unearthed irregularities and corruption by the BJD government one after another. He has been promoted and has been transferred at a time when the state needed him the most. He will shortly join his duty in Kerala and we wish him the best,” said the senior BJP leader.
The 1990 batch IA&AS Officer Patnaik had joined as accountant general of Odisha in 2011 August. Soon after his arrival, a rejuvenated CAG went on to expose a large number of scams and irregularities by the state government that put the ruling party in a tight spot and earned Patnaik the wrath of the government.
Among the many high-profile cases of corruption and gross irregularity exposed by the AG under Patnaik’s leadership were the discretionary quota land and plot allotment wherein 634 plots and flats were distributed to various individuals arbitrarily, the UGC payout irregularity and the mortgage of land leased by IDCO by 26 private companies to raise cumulative loans of a whopping Rs 52,423 crores.
Furthermore, he had audited electricity distribution companies of the state, revenue collection during the 2013-14 fiscal, the bungling in the Odisha Olympic Association, land grab by private educational institutes and had also played a significant role in exposing many other financial irregularities that had cost the state exchequer thousands of crores.