In the past six months, the state government has suspended about a hundred employees of the scam-tainted Public Works Department, perceived to be among the most corrupt departments of the Maharashtra government.
Chandrakant Patil, Public Works Minister, said, “We want to show zero tolerance to corruption in this department. So we have adopted a carrot and stick approach where we give plum postings to those who work hard and immediately suspend those embroiled in corruption. In six months, about a hundred engineers have been suspended.”
Some of the employees suspended were found to be hand-in-glove with contractors, some were accepting bribes, some were suspended for mishandling account books and so on, Patil said.
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He added that many came under the scanner also because they were found to be splitting low-cost projects into multiple contracts so as to escape the mandatory e-tendering process. E-tendering is compulsory for all projects that cost over Rs 3 lakh.
“Many files dating back to the erstwhile Congress-NCP government were piled up, pending sanctions for departmental inquiries against engineers of the Public Works Department. Meanwhile, all these errant employees were continuing to work in their positions. We have cleared these files, and suspended the engineers involved,” the minister said.
Most recently, the Public Works Department had suspended Chief Architect Bipin Sankhe, Chief Engineer Anil Baliram Gaikwad and Superintending Engineer Sanjay Solankhi for their alleged involvement in the Maharashtra Sadan scandal involving Chhagan Bhujbal, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former minister of the Public Works department.
The suspension came a day after the Anti Corruption Bureau registered a criminal case against Bhujbal, naming the three PWD employees in the First Information Report (FIR).
In February, the department had suspended 17 engineers in one go, ordering departmental inquiries against them.
Of these, 13 were suspended for their alleged role in the disappearance of files later recovered at the PWD guesthouse in Bandra.
The other four, all from Nashik, were suspended for allegedly attending a farewell party organised by a contractor for a retiring chief engineer, on the lawns of the Ozhar Airport.
According to statistics from the Anti Corruption Bureau, in 2014, as many as 16 officials of the Public Works Department were trapped in cases of corruption, involving a sum of Rs 2.72 lakh.
In the same year, six PWD employees were under the scanner for allegedly amassing disproportionate assets worth Rs 11.34 crore.