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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Phantom addresses, dodgy backgrounds: Tracking the private consultants hired by Chandigarh

Firm specializing in refrigeration consulted for fire-fighting services. Ex-councillor wants a CBI probe.

Written by Hina Rohtaki | Chandigarh | Published: January 29, 2020 12:45:05 pm
chandigarh city news, chandigarh, indian express, chandigarh engineering consultants, panchkula news (Left) The address of Dynamic HVAC Consultants, which got the maximum number of contracts, led Newsline to this structure in Sector 12A Rally in Panchkula, where a local resident said he had never heard of the company. The proprietor later said the firm had shifted to MDC; (Right) The building housing the M/s Ambience Consultants office at Sector 7, Chandigarh. (Express Photo: Jaipal Singh)

A booth at a village in Panchkula, a cramped cabin without staff in a Chandigarh market, and a resume with no previous work experience in that particular field, the so-called experts hired by the Chandigarh engineering wing don’t inspire much confidence either by their qualifications or their address.

The Indian Express tracked the addresses of companies that got the lion’s share of 40 contracts as per information provided in response to an application under the RTI Act. The reply said M/s Dynamic HVAC Consultants, which leads the list with the maximum number of contracts, operated from shop number 63, Sector 12 A, Rally.

Newsline visited the address and found no such consultant. All it found was a ramshackle structure that housed a cartridge refilling shop run by one Vinod Kumar on the first floor and one-room dwellings on the ground floor which had been rented out to daily wagers. One wall had ‘Om marble’ painted on it.

Asked about Dynamic, Vinod Kumar shrugged and said, “I have been here for 20 years, no company by the name of Dynamic Consultants has ever been here.”

When this reporter contacted the firm’s proprietor Harinder Singh, he said, “I shifted from Rally…now I have my office in MDC.” Asked how long he was at Rally, Singh said, “I was there for two-three years. I don’t remember the exact duration.”

Singh was also unclear about the registration of his company. “I guess 5-6 years ago…my boys would know.” This was followed by a call from his friend who told Newsline, “He (Harinder Singh) was just paying rent of that building. His company was registered in 2017, his father retired as an SDO from UT engineering wing.”

Soon after this call, the company website reflected a change in its address from Rally to MDC.

Dynamic has been consulted by UT on several big-ticket projects such as the central air-conditioning of Punjab and Haryana High Court twice, air-conditioning for the proposed hospital in Maloya, similar work in GMCH-32, Block B, and D, and the sports injury center among others.

M/s Ambience Consultants, which figured in the no. 2 positions in terms of consultancies, operates from a cabin on the second floor of a shop-cum-office in Sector 7, Chandigarh. A dark corridor leads to the cabins, but there is no cabin no. 204, nor is there an Ambience board.

After inquiring from neighboring cabins. one is guided to a cabin with tinted windows.

Anuj Aggarwal, the proprietor of Ambience, when contacted, said his company was registered in 2007 and has been associated with the UT engineering department ever since.

Asked about his office address, Aggarwal said, “I told the boy to affix a printout but I couldn’t follow it up with him. I was initially operating from home and then I moved to this office.”

Aggarwal, who has done mechanical engineering from a college affiliated to Osmania University in Hyderabad, has guided UT on heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning at district courts, Sector 43, GMCH-32, and the 100-bed hospital in Sector 48, where it also suggested fire-fighting measures.

The engineering wing even employed the services of a company specializing in air-conditioning and refrigeration for consultancy on fire-fighting services.

The Delhi-based M/s Mistral Air Conditioning Services Private Limited makes no secret of its specialization. An email by the company to Newsline states that their “core competence” was in “central air-conditioning and refrigeration systems”.

A look at its previous works showed that it has handled only heating, ventilation and air-conditioning for firms in other cities. But the UT administration decided to rope in its services for fire-fighting, this despite having its own fire department.

The company specified that it has provided its consultancy services 11 times in Chandigarh for various works — 9 times for fire-fighting services and twice for medical gas pipelines. Fire fighting service consultancy was provided at the Sector 63 apartment complex of the Chandigarh Housing Board, Government Multi-specialty Hospital Sector 16, Government Hospital at Sector 45, Institute of Hotel Management-42, the High Court guest house at the judicial academy in Sector 43 and others.

Company director Shantanu Mukherjee said they have done fire-fighting service consultancy mostly for Chandigarh.

Former councilor Pallav Mukherjee said, “When I was in the MC I checked and found out an interesting fact — several contractors who were given contracts by the MC had the same address in sector 18. So it is not out of the norm to imagine that the perpetrators would come up with imaginary companies to give contracts to. This is a fit case for the 3 C’s- The CBI, CVC & CAG. In fact, all that the engineers need is a guy to sign some fake bills and sign on the payments received the column,” Mukherjee claimed.

Paveela Bali, an environmentalist, said, “UT should have consulted experienced engineers at institutions such as PEC and NITTTR, which would have done the work without charging anything or even for a fraction of the fee paid to these consultants.”

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