ALSU levels fund misuse allegation, APB&OCWWB chairman terms it ‘baseless’

ITANAGAR, Aug 13: The Arunachal Law Students’ Union (ALSU) on Thursday accused Arunachal Pradesh Building & Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board (APB&OCWWB) Chairman Jalley Sonam of abusing his power and siphoning off government funds on several occasions.

In a representation to the chief minister, the ALSU also accused the board’s chairman of tampering with and unauthorized use of documents “by taking custody in willful manner and suppressing the facts.”

“The APB&OCWWB has been misusing the board’s fund in various wrongful manners. Due to his fraudulent activities, the poor workers of Arunachal Pradesh were deprived of their due benefit,” the ALSU alleged.

It claimed that, according to documents obtained through the RTI Act, there was an instance of diversion of Rs 5 crore of the board’s fund, on the pretext of constructing a labourers’ barrack, “without complying with the BOCW Act and guidelines during his (Sonam) tenure of chairmanship between 2011 and 13.”

The ALSU said that the work was awarded to M/s Sonam Enterprise, the sole proprietor of which is Sonam himself. The matter is still under SIC investigation.

The ALSU also claimed that “multi-crore fund was withdrawn in the name of purchasing education kits for registered workers’ children and huge amount was siphoned off in the pretext of purchasing non-statutory means to workers’ benefits without any codal formalities.”

The union also claimed that fund amounting to approximately Rs 6 crore was misused and siphoned off at Sonam’s direction, “on the pretext of purchasing an office building, without complying with the government norms.”

“It violated not only the CVC guideline but also the RECS Act, 2006, wherein it is clearly mentioned that board fund (labour cess money) cannot be used for any civil works in the form of construction and purchasing office building; rather it can used only for construction of workers’ benefit,” the union said.

The ALSU also alleged that most of the workers’ welfare projects, like medical camps and awareness camps were distributed to Sonam’s close relatives, “flouting the codal formalities,” during the 2018-19 and the 2019-2020 financial years.

“No practical work has been done. Instead, fund was siphoned off for personal benefit,” the ALSU claimed.

The union also claimed that Sonam had “favoured” M/s Sunita Infotech – “a West Bengal-based bogus firm” – in awarding a contract worth Rs 12 crore for skill development, “violating the provision of the scheme of recognition of prior learning of construction workers, and misutilized the fund.”

It claimed that, as per the scheme’s guideline, “nine organizations are empanelled for conducting the training programme by the Centre, but M/s Sunita Infotech is not empanelled.”

The ALSU further claimed that Sonam released mobilization fund to the firm in violation of the guidelines.

When contacted by this daily, Sonam categorically denied the allegations and termed them “baseless.”

He claimed that the SIT has already given him a clean chit after a thorough investigation into the labourers’ barrack construction case.

“The union’s allegation that I have misused the board’s fund is untrue because I have nothing to do with the construction of said building,” he said.

“The construction of the labourers’ barrack was taken up by around 13 labour union leaders under my firm, M/s J Sonam Construction Company. I have nothing to do with the construction of that building. Anyone can use my firm’s name to undertake the work,” he claimed.

“All other works have been placed with the department concerned. The board is not a construction agency, and I cannot issue work order, so all these allegations of misuse of crores of rupees are totally baseless,” Sonam said.