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Mumbai: Ex-office-bearers of Juhu society in soup over ‘unapproved spending’

Updated on: 26 September,2023 08:10 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dipti Singh |

Members pass resolution to get FIR filed in connection with graft, theft of meeting minutes register

Mumbai: Ex-office-bearers of Juhu society in soup over ‘unapproved spending’

Kapole Co-operative Housing Society in Juhu. File Pic/Satej Shinde

The annual general meeting (AGM) of Juhu’s high-profile Kapole Co-operative Housing Society turned into a battleground on Sunday with residents accusing former managing committee office-bearers of financial misappropriation and missing documents. The society, which is home to Bollywood A-listers, is once again embroiled in controversy after the administrator has called for the filing of an FIR for theft of the meeting minutes register and graft involving the unapproved expenditure of Rs 46 lakh in just four months. A resolution in this regard was passed in the AGM.

Irregularities in society

Author Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi and three other residents had last year alleged irregularities in the conduct of the society office, and some members were accused of refusing to allow owners to access their own property papers. mid-day had first reported about the residents levelling a series of allegations, including forgery, corruption and irregularities in the functioning of the committee in May 2022. Two residents had also moved the Bombay High Court challenging the very process of election of the society’s managing committee.

Following the developments, seven of the eight members of the managing committee handed in their resignation. On July 7, 2022, Nitin Dahibhate, the then-deputy registrar of the CHS K West ward, ordered the formation of a new board of administrators. The matter has been under scrutiny since then.

Siddharth Sanghvi said “Following a recent audit, it has come to light that approximately Rs 46 lakh have gone missing from the corpus of the society. This substantial sum was disbursed to questionable entities without the consent of the managing committee or society members, and no supporting records such as vouchers were provided. It appears that the former office-bearers treated the society corpus as their personal funds. The alleged fraud occurred within a mere four-month period, from April to July 2022. The same office-bearers had previously faced fines for a similar breach, but those penalties were ultimately suspended. This raises the question of why the deputy registrar’s office has not conducted a comprehensive financial forensic audit of the society until now.”

“The administrator had given former Chairman Atul Barot and former Secretary Gautam Patel an opportunity to respond. However, they failed to provide any meaningful explanation for the expenditure of R46 lakh,” he added.

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Jayant Sanghvi, a society resident and petitioner in the high court case, said, “The administrator appeared to have been avoiding filing an FIR until now. However, due to pressure from society members like Siddharth Sanghvi and ourselves, the administrative members were compelled to take action. A resolution to file an FIR has been passed and is now officially documented. The former office-bearers claim they are willing to provide an explanation regarding the ‘unapproved expenditure’, but they do not possess any vouchers.”

Disbursed Rs 26L to lawyer

He added, “They have disbursed Rs 26 lakh to a lawyer for society-related work, and not a single member was aware of this expenditure. These expenses were never presented in any AGM. I have now requested a comprehensive financial audit covering the period from 2019 to 2023.’”

Residents have asked the former office-bearers to prove that the expenditure was approved. “No AGM was held where the spendings were approved. Why has the administrator taken no action? Now, the resolution to file an FIR for the missing register and financial audit of the last five years was unanimously demanded by all members,” said Arun Saraf, who had alleged that the office-bearers made him sign the minutes of the previous year’s meetings in April 2022. He is another petitioner in the matter in the HC.

Brahmesh Patel, a member of the administrative board, said, “The former officers (Barot and Patel) have committed to providing a clarification. A resolution has been passed, mandating the filing of an FIR regarding the missing register. During the meeting, they asserted that they had conducted a special general body meeting (SGM) to obtain approval for the expenditures in question; however, no other members seem to recall such an event or approval of these expenditures. We will await their evidence and explanation. This week, we will promptly send them a letter or a show-cause notice, the administrator will take the call. Once we receive their clarification, we will convene an SGM to determine the next course of action.”

Barot said that it is unfair on the part of members to blame them for expenditures when the meeting minutes register itself is missing. “Some committee members raised a concern regarding an expenditure made without prior committee approval. However, they claim that the minutes register is missing and an FIR regarding this matter is to be registered.

The question arises: on what grounds are they alleging unapproved expenditure and assigning blame without concrete evidence? It is essential to establish this before making any accusations. Accusations should not be made without proper substantiation. If they write to us, we will provide clarifications regarding the raised questions,” he said.

He added, “Due to the absence of meeting minutes, we are unable to locate bills and vouchers. However, we have assured the members that we will obtain copies of the bills and vouchers from the individuals or parties to whom payments were made.”

Expense not approved

Advocate Sunita Godbole, a certified auditor, who is the chairman of the administrative board, said that even if the former officer-bearers submit bills and vouchers, the expenditure was not approved. She added, “The register that contains important details and minutes of SGM meetings is missing. We were not sure whether the register was missing or was stolen so we waited for some time. During the AGM on Sunday, Siddharth Sanghvi raised the issue again and it was decided that an FIR would be filed against an unknown person. There were heated arguments on the issue.”

Timeline of the case

May 2022: A few residents of the housing society accused office-bearers of corruption, fudging minutes and preventing owners from reviewing their documents
June 2022: Three members tendered their resignation, stating they do not want to be part of a committee that faces such grave allegations
June  2022: Two residents challenged the process of election to the society’s managing committee in the high court
July 7, 2022: Seven of the eight members of the committee handed in their resignation, thus dissolving the body
July 2022: Nitin Dahibhate, the then-deputy registrar of the CHS, K West ward, appointed a three-member board of to take charge

Time span in months in which payments were made

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