The Maharashtra Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) filed a 3,000-page chargesheet before a special ACB court in Thane Monday in the Kondhane dam scam case against six former bureaucrats and the partner of FA Enterprises. While former water resources minister Sunil Tatkare has not been named as an accused, the ACB chargesheet says the project was awarded to FA Enterprises after the proposal was “signed” by Tatkare, and that the minister was aware of the norms concerning the threshold capacity of the dams.
The chargesheet, which was reviewed by The Indian Express, says the tender criteria were tweaked to award the contract to the contractor. It reads, “In August 2011, RD Shinde, the then Superintendent Engineer with Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC), recommended the contract to be awarded to FA Enterprise. This proposal then landed at the table of D P Shirke, the then executive director, KIDC, who wrote “Sh” on the file.”
According to the ACB, “Sh” was a code used to convey that “the particular file should be processed as it is beneficial”. This file was then forwarded to the then chief engineer, water resources, Konkan Division, who had remarked: “The order has to be cleared”. The file was forwarded to Tatkare who then signed on it, according to the chargesheet.
“The proposal was forwarded by Balasaheb Patil, chief engineer, Water Resource Department, who stated that the project met the technical requirements and the bidding process was commenced after the project was seconded by Devendra Shirke, and was signed by the then water resources minister Sunil Tatkare,” the chargesheet reads.
In September 2010, the ACB says, the then governor of Maharashtra had sanctioned construction of dams having irrigation capacity of less than 250 hectares. The government had issued a notification that projects of 250 hectares or above would be kept on ‘shelf’ (cannot be implemented immediately). However, in order to bag the contract, the accused bureaucrats allegedly tweaked the criteria to meet the requirement of “less than 250 hectares”. The new criteria allowed construct of the dam having the height of 43 metres and capacity of 240 hectares. This criteria was met by FA Enterprises, it says.
The ACB cites the observations of the committee constituted by the Maharashtra government in 2015 to look into the alleged irregularities in the project. “The committee opined that the minister (who is not named by the ACB) was informed about the norms that irrigation above 250 hectares would required to be kept on ‘shelf’ and that the minister had given his consent to the project,” says the chargesheet.
The ACB also says accused Shinde, Sonanwane and Shirke were responsible for amending the rules to benefit the contractor.
The chargesheet points out how the file to clear the project and award the tender to FA Enterprises moved in one day across three places — Thane, Mumbai and Raigad. “In one day, July 22, 2011, the file moved three places — from KIDC office in Kopari, Thane to the Chief Engineer, Konkan Division in Fort, Mumbai and from there to Executive Engineer, Irrigation Department in Kolad in Raigad. On the same day, FA Enterprise submitted a bank guarantee of Rs 1.32 crore to the Raigad office of the irrigation department,” says the chargesheet. “The Raigad Irrigation Department sanctioned the project to FA Enterprise. However, this was contrary to the conditions laid down by the government through a notification issued on May, 19, 2011, which stated that the project above 250 hectares has to be kept on ‘shelf’,” it says .
In June 1984, the ACB findings say, the dam department mooted a proposal to build a dam measuring 74 metres in height and of 979 hectares capacity entailing a cost of Rs 54.58 crore. In September 2010, the then governor sanctioned construction of dams having irrigation capacity below 250 hectares.
Following this, in January 2011, the then chief engineer, water resources, sent a proposal to the KIDC mentioning specifications to 20.19 million cubic metres (mcm) storage capacity, 43 metre dam height and 240 hectares of irrigation capacity.
“On August 16, 2011, the proposed height of the project was increased to 74 metres, however the irrigation capacity was kept at 240 hectares. The criteria were tweaked so as to meet the criteria floated by the Governor and to facilitated the contractor bag the project,” the ACB has inferred in its chargesheet.
The ACB states that while five companies submitted their bids for the tenders, only FA Enterprise was awarded the contract despite being ineligible. “Four companies namely — two Joint Ventures- FA Enterprise (accused), FA Construction and two proprietary firms, AB Nagireddy, Nobel India Construction Company and an outsider Ravasa Construction — bid for the contract. However Ravas Construction didn’t pursue it further after filling the form,” the chargesheet reads. “FA Enterprise and FA Constructions, which were having three and six ongoing projects, respectively, were not eligible for the said project. Despite that, these companies were allowed to bid. Also, it did not comply with one of the eligibility criteria concerning submission of documents. Despite this, Anil Gaikwad, engineer recommended for that firm, be allowed to bid,” it says, adding: “In order to fulfill the criteria, the firm and its partners submitted forged documents (Class- 1A forms) to the PWD.”
Witnesses Hari Bhau Gosavi and Narendra Balchandra Shinde, who were part of the committee set up to scrutinise the bidding process, were never present in the meetings conveyed to scrutinise the project, according to the chargesheet. “Rajesh Rithe, executive engineer, Kolad, took the documents concerning awarding of the tender to the Nashik office of the two accused and told them the documents were verified by the other accused, Anand Kalukhe, the then executive engineer, Raigad district, following which the two gave assent to the proposal,” it says.
On August 24, 2011, says the chargesheet, the Raigad irrigation department sanctioned Rs 271.45 crore to FA Enterprise. Two days later, Shinde sent the file to the KIDC chief engineer stating that the estimated cost of Kondhane project was Rs 614.45 crore.
However, G Jagidhar, the then under secretary, water resources, wrote to the KIDC that the cost of the project was escalated by Rs 534 crore and owing to lack of funds they could contemplate seeking help from the industries department. He also wrote that the initial plan of 20.19 mcm storage capacity had been increased to 105.44 mcm but the irrigation captivity was at 240 hectares only. “He also asked that in spite of the fact that the project was kept on ‘shelf’, how was it awarded (to the contractor),” the chargesheet reads.
All the accused have been charged under relevant sections of the IPC and those of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Defence lawyer Prashant Patil, who represented the company, said the alternation were made by the KIDC committee through proper tender process. “The KIDC has its own Bare Act. The projects are put before certain committees who have discretionary powers and the alteration made by them are and brought to the notice through notifications. The same has been done in our case. This has been transparently and not in a clandestine way so there is no question of the favouring the company,” he said.
On the point of FA Enterprises not meeting the tendering criteria, Patil said, “The notification says a company having more than three completed project in the said corporation is ineligible. However, in our case when the said tender was awarded, we never had three projects under way. I can have any number of projects elsewhere in Maharashtra, that was not abiding on us.”
Tatkare refused to comment.
Senior counsel Harshad Nimbalkar and advocate Shailesh Maske told The Indian Express their clients Shinde Sonanwane and Shrike said no wrongdoing were committed by them. “Shinde had objected to the project and there is a letter to that effect where he has expressed his reservations towards granting of the tender to the said firm but he was under pressure from his seniors to clear it,” said Maske.
All the accused where granted conditional bail on a cash surety of Rs 25,000 until September 25 when they each have to produce the surety.
The Accused Devendra Shrike, then executive director, KIDC Balasaheb Patil, then chief engineer, water resources, Konkan division Prahlad Sonanwane, then chief engineer, water resources, Konkan division Ramchandra Shinde, then superintending engineer, KIDC Anand Kalukhe, then executive engineer, Raigad irrigation department, Kolad Rajesh Rithe, then acting executive engineer, Raigad irrigation department, Kolad Nasar Khatri, partner, FA Enterprises