THE CBI has sought all files, correspondences, notings, minutes of meetings and every other document pertaining to tenders and policy decisions related to all hotels and properties undertaken by the Railway Ministry and IRCTC between 2004 and 2009, when RJD chief Lalu Prasad was the Union Rail Minister. The ministry has also been asked to draw up a list of all key railway officers in positions of influence on commercial matters during this period, their present posting, contact details etc, sources told The Indian Express. The Railway Board’s Vigilance directorate is currently processing the list, which is expected to be sent to the CBI by Friday.
Last Friday, the investigating agency registered an FIR against Lalu, his wife Rabri Devi, their son and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, and five others in a case of alleged corruption linked to the award of tenders for the maintenance of two railway hotels in Ranchi and Puri in 2006.
The documents the CBI has sought will include files that originated before and remained in circulation after 2006, the year of the award of the tenders.
Documents linked to these tenders, which were examined by The Indian Express, show that Sujata Hotels, a company owned by two Patna-based businessmen, emerged as the only eligible bidder for the Puri hotel in what is being described as “a virtual walkover”. Documents show that Sujata Hotels became H1, or highest bidder, for the Puri property by default as there was no other bidder in the financial round — it got the contract for Rs 9.96 crore.
Records also show that the tender committee at the time, comprising three IRCTC senior officials, stated the only other bidder in contention, Hotel Keshari of Bhubaneshwar, did not qualify for the financial round as it “did not seem to have a plan” to execute the contract. The committee noted that Hotel Keshari’s seriousness was “doubtful” as it had not submitted its balance sheet, detailed audit report and profit-and-loss accounts.
Based on its financials, it scored 53 out of 100, while the requirement was a minimum of 60, despite the bidder meeting minimum eligibility criteria, according to documents. The committee had submitted its report to the tender accepting authority, then then MD of IRCTC, P K Goyal, who has also been named in the CBI’s FIR, on December 23, 2006 — Goyal approved it the same day.
The tender committee concluded Keshari did not appear to have the capacity to renovate the hotel in four months. But official sources told The Indian Express the renovation by Sujata Hotels took over a couple of years.