After fraudulent withdrawal of funds from Provident Fund accounts was detected and reported by one of the Zonal Railways, the Ministry of Railways has issued an alert calling for special checks across the railway administration to rule out similar embezzlement.
According to railway sources, the modus operandi of the suspects was to remit unlinked amounts lying in the account of the unit in the ledger accounts of some working employees. They would then create fake documents and withdraw funds from the PF account of the employees.
Lack of scrutiny
Preliminary investigation revealed non-implementation of the instructions that countersigning of journal vouchers above ₹1 lakh by a Junior Administrative Grade officer, internal checks not being conducted at prescribed intervals, lack of proper scrutiny of unlinked balances and suspense heads and sharing of login credentials along with one time password (OTP) were some of the factors that facilitated the fraud.
Soon after the scam was exposed, the Railway Board issued an alert to the Principal Financial Advisers of all Zonal Railways/Production Units informing that all journal vouchers produced within an unit, which are not supported by transfer transaction certificate, will only be accepted in the Integrated Payroll and Accounting System (IPAS) with the digital signature of the accounts officer. The alert also directed the authorities concerned to ensure the implementation of an earlier Railway Board order, which issued on October 27, 2021, to prevent such frauds in future.
The heads of departments (HoDs) were told to sensitise employees not to share their IPAS credentials since it would further enable such fraudulent withdrawals from their respective PF accounts. The alert, which did not specify the quantum of fraudulent withdrawal or the place where it occurred, said further investigation is on and also called for the action taken report on the advisory issued to all the zones.
The Indian Railways, one of the largest employers in the country, has over 12 lakh staff on rolls who are enrolled to the General Provident Fund. A couple of years ago, an official of the Central Railway was arrested by law enforcing agencies on charges of allegedly creating fake accounts and siphoning off ₹70 lakh from the PF accounts of railway employees, the sources said.