House panel puts Cong-NCP govt in dock for graft

Demands criminal action against Kalmadi, spells fresh trouble for Bhujbal

| Mumbai | Published: March 1, 2014 12:54:28 am


The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has called for criminal action against tainted MP Suresh Kalmadi and the organizing committee of the Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG), 2008, in Pune for expenditure irregularities and also sought a probe by a state Special Investigation Team (SIT) and then by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into a construction project involving Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi and two other public buildings in Mumbai implemented by the state Public Works Department led by NCP’s Chhagan Bhujbal.

Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the two PAC  reports could spell fresh trouble for the Congress-led Democratic Front government in Maharashtra. The Opposition has already levelled serious allegations against Kalmadi and Bhujbal on these issues.
The PAC is chaired by BJP legislator Girish Bapat, who is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Pune, where Kalmadi is the sitting MP and a frontrunner for a Congress ticket this year too.

Bapat, however, denied personal political vendetta. “The PAC is a like a mini-Assembly, with representatives from all parties. The recommendations were made unanimously after scrutinising the evidence placed before the committee,” he said.
In another report, the panel alleged there was massive corruption and loss to state exchequer in a public-private partnership project involving construction of three government buildings – the Maharashtra Sadan (state’s official guest house in Delhi Lutyen’s zone), another state guest house (Highmount) at Malabar Hill and new administrative building and residential quarters for the Regional Transport Office in Andheri.

In 2008-09, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India had alleged that the project contractor K S Chamankar had made windfall gains while the state exchequer had incurred losses in it. Echoing CAG’s findings, the PAC has now asked the state government to conduct an SIT probe in this regard. Bapat said, “As the scope involves construction work in Delhi, the panel has further recommended that a CBI probe be conducted based on the SIT report, which must be submitted within six months.”

In CYG’s case, the panel’s report, which was commenting on an action taken report furnished by the government in the matter, said, “The MP (who was holding Ministry of Sport and Youth Welfare then) was asked how the funds of Rs 25.12 crore spent. But the required papers were not sent to by the organising committee (OC). As a result, the Auditor General has expressed inability to verify authenticity of documents. So, the PAC recommends criminal case against him (the MP) and other organising committee members.”

The PAC report says “the Chief Minister (Prithviraj Chavan) has approved a file to lodge a criminal case against Kalmadi, as was recommended by the PAC.”
Kalmadi was president of the OC and Lalit Bhanot was member secretary.

In the case of the construction project, the panel has agreed with CAG’s observation that the net profit the contractor stood to make against his investment was above the permitted norms.

“The net profit of the contractor would be over Rs 5,000 crore, against Rs 73 crore as claimed by the government,” the panel said, pegging the investment of the contractor at Rs 100 crore.

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