The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Thursday arrested four senior officials for creating fake benami accounts and siphoning off `2.1 crore from the Sheep Rearing Development Scheme (SRDS). The arrested officers were identified as D. Ravi, assistant director of Kamareddy Area Veterinary Hospital, M. Aditya Kesav Sai, assistant director, district veterinary and animal husbandry officer (AHO), Medchal, Pasula Raghupathi Reddy, Rangareddy district groundwater officer, and Sangu Ganesh, deputy director of adult education department.

The ACB official who did the preliminary probe said the accused colluded and conspired with private parties by creating benami accounts to divert the funds. The accused were produced in court and lodged in judicial remand. As per government directives, a senior officer from each department is to be present to purchase sheep from other states. It was found that Raghupathi Reddy and Ganesh went to purchase sheep and committed irregularities, while Ravi and Kesav Sai colluded with the private parties to open benami accounts.

An audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) raised suspicion of fraud in SRDS implementation, which was introduced in 2017. Under the scheme, each beneficiary gets a

sheep unit, comprising 20 ewes and one ram. The total cost of each unit was `1.25 lakh, of which 75 per cent (`93,750) was to be given as a subsidy and 25 per cent (`31,250) was to be paid by the beneficiary. Implemented by the Telangana State Sheep and Goat Development Cooperative Federation Limited (TSSGDCFL) at the state level and by the District Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Officers (DV&AHOs) at district level, sheep are purchased from neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu to avoid recycling and increase the net sheep population in the state. The sheep breeds chosen are ‘Nellore Brown (Dora)’, ‘Nellore Jodipi (white with black spots on face)’, ‘Deccani’ and ‘Madras Red’.

From 2017-18 to September 2021, in seven districts, a total of `1,538.59 crore (including subsidy of `1,153.94 crore) was spent, with `1,490.38 crore (including `1,117.79 crore subsidy) on the purchase of sheep and `48.21 crore (including `36.15 crore subsidy) on transportation. The CAG audit found that of 1,15,378 sheep units, transport invoices for only 98,543 units were produced, while ledgers for 16,835 sheep units — costing `142.69 crore — were not furnished.

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