The Anti-corruption Branch (ACB) of Delhi government on Saturday reopened investigations into the 2002 CNG fitness “scam” in which senior bureaucrats in the erstwhile Sheila Dikshit government may face the heat. Sources said the discussions to reopen the case were held over the past two days, with the Directorate of Vigilance giving the go-ahead to re-investigate the matter.
A case was registered with the ACB in 2012 when complainant Vivek Garg, an RTI activist, alleged financial irregularities to the tune of Rs 100 crore in the matter. Garg had stated that several officials of the Delhi government “colluded” to award tenders to ESP India Inc USA, which changed into ESP India Pvt Ltd at the time of the agreement — a move that went unnoticed despite the documents for the agreement passing through the offices of senior officials in the Delhi government. Subsequently, the director of ESP India Inc USA Nitin Manawat and three others were arrested.
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According to the ACB’s FIR, the Delhi Government lost crores of rupees by awarding the contract of operation and maintenance of I&C (inspection and certification) lanes at Burari authority to ESP India Pvt Ltd instead of ESP India Inc USA ,which had been given the job, through tendering. The company did not conduct certain tests it was required to do and charged money for them instead. The FIR stated that the contract was renewed for ESP India to give undue benefits and illegal financial gains.
Sources said that parallel to the ACB’s probe, the Central Bureau of Investigation — which too had conducted an inquiry — had found that three senior government officials were found to have aided the irregularities and tried to “cover up” the issue by placing “fake” documents before the Lt-Governor. The CBI report stated that prima facie, a case against the officials was made out for the alleged cover-up.
The CBI’s report came out in October 2014. However, at this time Delhi was under President’s rule and the probe reached a deadlock. It was in 2013 when the ACB first asked the Directorate of Vigilance for prosecution sanction against senior officials — including those from the IAS cadre and DANICS officers. However, the L-G passed orders denying sanction and said “no case was made out”.
The ACB continued its probe and asked the L-G to reconsider its decision, who then appointed a two-member committee under a retired judge to look into the matter. The committee found irregularities but did not support the idea of initiating criminal proceedings.
The report pointed out how the “metamorphosis” had been handled in a “lackadaisical manner” but did not call for an inquiry or any criminal proceedings, an official said.
Meanwhile, the CBI began an inquiry into the matter after the Garg approached the department. The inquiry found that the L-G was not the competent authority to deny prosecution sanction and that it could have been granted only by the Centre.
Following this, the matter remained in a stalemate. However, as soon as the AAP government took over this February, the ACB submitted its own report and the CBI’s report and asked how to proceed in the matter.
“The ACB will now write to the vigilance department. It will take a decision and send it to the Centre. However, adverse findings against the officials have been given by both the CBI and the ACB and hence, there will have to be very good reasons for any authority to refuse sanction for prosecution now,” he said.
Last December, the AAP had raked up the scam and attacked the “continuing silence” of the Centre and the L-G on the alleged indictment of top officials in the city government by CBI.