The Delhi Assembly’s Committee of Petitions has recommended the Delhi government’s chief secretary to divest principal secretary Ashwani Kumar of his charge in the Public Works Department and Vigilance Department, and to conduct a “detailed inquiry… to fix responsibility for false claims” of desilting of drains, and “fraudulent payments made to contractors”. On Friday, AAP MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj presented in the Delhi Assembly a report by the Committee of Petitions, formed to look into “alleged mismanagement on part of PWD of GNCTD and the Municipal Corporations of Delhi” in desilting of drains and preventing waterlogging.
After presenting photos of dirty drains — which he claimed had been reported to be desilted by different departments — Bhardwaj said the “work was only on paper” and that “truth wasn’t being reported”, which pointed to “corruption in the departments”. The report added that the three municipal corporations were filing reports that had been “manipulated with the intent of deceiving the committee, courts, government and the public at large”. It also said the status report presented by the principal secretary (PWD) turned out to be a “bogus fabrication of untruths”.
It further added that the PWD was “not prepared for the monsoon” and that “corruption (was) rampant in the department”, since “nothing else but corruption can explain such fictitious reports being presented to fool the public”. It further stated that contractors were “paid for desilting of drains but there was no mechanism to verify if the work was executed in reality”. The committee recommended that the chief secretary conduct a “detailed inquiry personally to fix responsibility for false claims made by the department and fraudulent payments made to contractors, who have done desilting work only on paper”.
In addition, Kumar, was to be “divested of both charges” in order to disallow himself from “investigating himself and his own department”, the committee recommended. Kumar refused to comment on the report. The inquiry, whose report is to be submitted to the committee within a month, should “fix responsibility in cases where false certificates claiming successful completion of works have been submitted to the committee”, it said.
The report noted that Kumar, as the Chairman of the Coordination Committee set up by the Delhi High Court, was in a “leadership role”. It asked: “Doesn’t the buck stop with him (Kumar) for this monumental failure?” Kumar, it added, did not try to “shift the blame on others” and admitted that the work was “far from satisfactory”. The committee also recommended that the chief secretary put in a “fool-proof mechanism to verify” the execution of each contract and create a mechanism, whereby “local stakeholders formally become a party to the verification of claims made by the contractors”.
The report added that when the committee met on June 22, all chief engineers of the three MCDs had deposed before them, initially “accepting that their reports were at variance with reality”, but when asked to “fix responsibility for this”, they “retracted their earlier statements”. Instead, they “unanimously maintained” that they didn’t want “action against any of their officers” and that they were “personally satisfied” with the work and its execution. Bhardwaj said this pointed to “rampant corruption” in the system. The report stated that Kumar should have “spent more time on the field to see the reality with his own eyes”.
When contacted, North Delhi mayor Preeti Agarwal said waterlogging has been mainly seen on PWD roads and she had personally informed the chief minister of such cases. “We are working on a war-footing to fix open drains on MCD roads. MCDs and PWD will have to work together to sort out Delhi’s issues,” she said.