CBI teams begin probe into Rs. 250 crore scam in KSOU
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CBI teams begin probe into Rs. 250 crore scam in KSOU

July 11, 2023

Misappropriation took place between 2009-10 and 2015-2016; Sleuths to come to Mysuru soon

By S.T. Ravikumar

Mysore/Mysuru: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has initiated a probe into the alleged misappropriation of over Rs. 250 crore in the Karnataka State Open University (KSOU) between 2009-10 and 2015-2016.

The funds were purportedly collected under the guise of establishing Collaborative Study Centres across the country, conducting related examinations, and collecting course fees.

The investigation was launched based on the recommendations of the KSOU empowered Board of Management, the University’s apex body, which submitted a report to the Governor, who also serves as the Chancellor of  Karnataka Universities.

The State Government accepted the Governor’s recommendations on Apr. 7, 2022 and ordered a CBI probe. The CBI officially took over the investigation on Mar. 13, 2023 (HD 39 COD2022).

Sleuths gather Information

The CBI has been conducting the investigation for over two weeks now and has issued notices to KSOU officers, auditors, and finance officers, seeking information, communications, and records. CBI officers have started gathering information from Bank managers regarding the issuance and encashment of Demand Drafts (DDs).

The allegation is that Demand Drafts were obtained from Collaborative Study Centres in the name of establishing them. Entries with the respective DD numbers were made in registers and the funds were then returned to the study centres, while significant kickbacks were accepted.

In a letter to the Additional Chief Secretary of the Higher Education Department, the Governor’s Office expressed the Governor’s intention to assign the KSOU case, which involves fund misappropriation to the CBI for a thorough investigation.

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Registrar’s letter

On Feb. 15, 2022, KSOU Registrar wrote to the Governor (KSOU/RPA/28/2021-2022), highlighting the alleged misuse of Rs. 250 crore collected from 205 collaborative institutions affiliated with KSOU across the country. The Registrar’s letter revealed instances of fund misappropriation in the admission, examination, study centre and marks card sections of the University.

During a board meeting of KSOU’s apex body in February 2022, it was unanimously decided to recommend the case for investigation by the CBI. This decision was made after reviewing the interim report of a Chartered Accountant and the statutory audit reports from 2009-10 to 2015-16.

Given the widespread presence of collaborative institutes across India, the meeting suggested that a central agency like the CBI would be suitable to conduct the investigation.

Following the board’s decision, the Registrar wrote to the Governor on Feb. 15, 2022, seeking the Governor’s intervention. Recognising the gravity of the case, the Governor’s Office wrote to the Additional Chief Secretary on Apr. 7, 2022, instructing the State Government to conduct a comprehensive investigation.

Manpower and resources

The CBI probe order, issued by Mohammad Ibrahim, the Undersecretary of the State Home Department (Crimes), requires identifying individuals involved in irregularities during the specified period. Notices have been served to the KSOU Vice-Chancellor, Registrar, Evaluation Registrar, Finance Officer and heads of the Auditing Department.

KSOU officials have been instructed to promptly provide data, documents, and information to the CBI for auditing purposes. This includes information about locations, assets, manpower, campus offices, logistics support such as vehicles, as well as notifying Bank branch managers, account officers, cash officers and account auditors regarding the fees collected from collaborative institutions through DDs between 2009-10 and 2015-16.

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Notices to collaborative institutions

Notices have also been issued to collaborative institutions across India, requesting information on the number of students, course fees collected, examination fees, course-wise data, payment methods, receipts and DDs and cheques received.

Furthermore, the Department of Higher Education has submitted the necessary documents to the CBI and CBI officials have already commenced the auditing process. Sources indicate that CBI investigators may interrogate current and former KSOU officials who were in service during the period of misappropriation, as well as examine their relatives.

CBI officials are expected to visit Mysuru soon to question the officers, including retired personnel and staff members who were associated with the University during the misappropriation period, according to sources.

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