Churches become first casualty of SSA probe

Al Ngullie
Dimapur | September 6

To much embarrassment, two major church councils have become the first to fall to consequent action initiated in the wake of anomalies and financial mismanagement detected in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’s (SSA) project-undertakings,  in Nagaland. 

Interestingly, this action is in the backdrop of the proposal forwarded to the Government of Nagaland for a state-level enquiry body. The proposal – demanded by the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) – is awaiting final approval for instating the same. (Contrary to a news report in a local daily that an enquiry body has already been formed ‘under pressure from the NSF,’ government officials in concern clarified that no such decision has been taken as yet. However, with the reported special interest of Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio himself, approval is expected to come sooner)   

Highly reliable sources from the government informed today that the Zeme Baptist Churches Council (ZBCC) and the Konyak Baptist Bumeinok Bangjum (KBBB) have been found accountable for a substantial financial lapse and ‘poor’ work activities. While details on punitive penalization from the Government against the two church councils could not be divulged, a highly placed senior official from the education department said they have been blacklisted. The senior official, on condition of anonymity, informed that ZBCC is accountable for mismanagement of resources to the tune of Rs. 13 lakhs. KBBB’s financial liability on the other hand, was not divulged but it was informed that the council had received about Rs. 1 crore and 75 lakhs for implementing SSA projects in Mon district. Further, ZBCC was told by the government to ‘recover’ the amount of Rs 13 lakhs, which is yet to be by the council. Details on KBBB’s ‘recovery’ account could not be informed by the officials. 

The two church councils have now been blacklisted from SSA’s future project endeavors, the Education officer informed. Further action is currently unknown taking into consideration that the culpable two are churches ‘which is very embarrassing as a Christian’ according to the official. It is also observed that this development would serve as a follow-up to whatever enquiry and subsequent action that the proposed committee –would take, if approved by the government. 

Mention may be made here that last year, serious allegations had surfaced pertaining to misuse of SSA funds reportedly by church councils and other NGOs. Regular charges of corruption and anomalies continue to be highlighted in the media till date. 

Highly-placed SSA officials have informed that the proposal has been submitted and that approval is awaited. According to the department, the committee has proposed to have three members. Former Zunheboto Deputy Commissioner S Among, NCS is proposed to be convener with one Dr. Edward and Joint Secretary Chacko, consultant to the education department, as committee members. If the enquiry body is approved, they will be “looking into” the functioning of the SSA, with special reference to unearthing corruption and resource mismanagement.  

In a related matter, Principal Secretary for School Education Z Banuo Jamir has taken strong note of a local daily reporting that the government has already instituted the enquiry committee. While decrying the manner in which the daily attributed her as confirming the approval to the NSF, Principal Secretary Jamir informed that she had only told a NSF delegation that the proposal is under examination. The “file” has yet to come yet, she informed. Secretary Jamir strongly held view that it is not “bowing to pressure” as reported. In fact the SSA is for the whole people and state. This entails a responsibility and a cause for concern from all sections including the state government, she said implying on the seriousness of matter such as corruption in a welfare-development entity like the SSA.  

NSF chief Imchatoba Imchen also informed that the Federation was told that the enquiry committee is in process. He said that the NSF would be extending supplementary assistance to the task of the committee (if approved for instating). 

Meanwhile SSA Mission Director Angao Zeliang said that SSA is in dire need of a monitoring mechanism to regulate the functioning of the projects. The mission directors, who joined not too long ago, expressed the imperative to have a state, district and village-level monitoring mechanisms that would act as a bulwark against corruption and mismanagement. The system has to be streamlined to buttress project implementation for the people, said Director Angao, adding that the recent cases of corruption even by religious organizations funded by SSA are reflective of the need. ‘No balance or expenditure are reflected even in their progress cards’ she lamented.