CBI is also planning to seek help from the Mysuru crime branch officials who had stumbled upon a racket in 2017.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is believed to be preparing to question officials, including former employees and serving staff, in the finance department of the Karnataka State Open University (KSOU) in connection with the Rs 300 crore fee embezzlement scam that unfolded over seven years from 2009 to 2016.
KSOU Registrar Prof R. Rajanna who had informed the Governor house about the scam is also on the CBI list for questioning as the agency wants to get a sense of circumstances that prevailed in the university when the matter was reported to the central agency, said sources.
KSOU, headquartered in Mysuru, was set up in 1996 and offers distance-learning university courses through collaborative institutions all over India. The scam revolves around swindling of course and exam fee collected by students by collaborative institutions. The institutes collected the money but it was never deposited in the university’s bank accounts, said CBI sources.
Misappropriation of receipts of the admission, examination, study centre and marks card sections of the university were found during an audit by the chartered accountant in 2020.
The CBI has now started its probe after registering an FIR over offences including criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, misappropriation and criminal misconduct. The FIR was registered following a written complaint given by Mohammed Ibrahim, under-secretary to Karnataka’s home department.
The complaint received from the state government alleged that during the audit of accounts for FY 2013-14 and 2014-15, it was found that credits to the tune of Rs 50 crore from various collaborative institutions were missing. The auditor also calculated approximately another Rs 250 crore missing credits pertaining to financial year 2009-10 to 2012-13 based on the students’ admission and amount received by the university.
Now, as part of the investigation the CBI is also planning to seek help from the Mysuru crime branch officials who had stumbled upon a racket in 2017 in which KSOU admission numbers were used to create nearly 1,000 fake marks cards. In that case, the scamsters had used the university’s data on students admitted through collaborative institutes across the state. The fake marks cards were detected during a government recruitment drive in which some job-seekers had submitted fake marks cards.
In 2016, KSOU was in the eye of a controversy when the privilege committee of the legislative council found fault in its decision to open online and outreach centres, besides tying up with collaborative institutions outside Karnataka without the approval from the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education.
There were reports in 2017 that the fake degrees and diplomas issued by the KSOU had landed its students in trouble.
Many of them had to forego appointments and examinations because the degrees and diplomas issued by the university were not recognised. One such victim was a disabled student who could not avail the quote for the disabled in civil services examinations as he was barred from the examination as his B. Tech degree issued by KSOU was not recognised.
After almost a decade of alleged wrongdoings in the KSOU, the Karnataka state government accorded its consent to the CBI for investigation pertaining to alleged misappropriation of fees collected for the period 2009-10 to 2015-16 from the students of KSOU by collaborative institutions spread all over India.
Notably, the Karnataka government’s nod for the CBI probe under Section 6 of the DSPE Act was given on 13 March, just two months before the state Assembly elections.
The Central government’s approval for the probe under Section 5 of the DSPE Act was given on 18 September.