A probe by a five-member panel headed by Justice (retd.) MG Gaikwad, into allegation of corruption in tribal welfare schemes following directives of the Bombay High Court, has found that contracts for building homes across tribal belts were allotted — without competitive bidding or tendering process — to a firm run by the family of the then serving public works department (PWD) executive engineer, Sharad Manga Tayade.
The investigation revealed that Tayade himself was nominated by the government as the coordinating authority to certify the completion of these projects. Tayade retired on May 31, 2015, and has been active in politics since. While Tayade family’s firm, the Joshaba Swayam Rojgaar Sanstha, is based in Nashik, the inquiry committee found that it had bagged contracts across tribal regions in North Maharashtra, Marathwada, and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region between 2006 and 2009.
According to the committee’s report, Tayade’s wife Sunanda, son Swapnil, and brother Chandrakant are on the firm’s managing committee.
Under the Tribal Development department’s erstwhile Gharkul scheme, contractors were paid up to Rs 1 lakh for each tribal home built under the contract. “The entire process smacks of collusion and nepotism. No tender process was followed as mandated while allotting the contracts. Without following due process, the contracts were allotted to contractors of choice. In the Joshaba society’s case, it is clear that undue favours were shown to it,” said inquiry panel chief Justice Gaikwad.
With the committee finding several discrepancies and irregularities in completion of the projects, Gaikwad said, “When Mr. Tayade was connected with the contractor, at least he should not have been appointed as the authority for certifying the works. The entire deal with the contractor is suspicious. The government must order further investigation and act against all those responsible.”
The committee, which also visited some construction sites during the inquiry, found that several projects had been left incomplete. “In most cases, no list of beneficiaries was prepared. Payments were made in the absence of receipts from beneficiaries confirming possession of the houses. There were no inspection reports either. We also found excess payments being made in some places,” the retired Justice said.
While the committee had issued notices to Tayade and his family-run firm to defend the accusations, Justice Gaikwad said they had chosen not to show up. While Tayade remained unavailable for comment, Manisha Verma, Secretary, Tribal Development, Maharashtra, said her department was yet to go through the commission’s report.
The five-member committee under Gaikwad, appointed by the state on April 15, 2014 following HC directives, had submitted a near 3,000-page report to the government and the court three months ago. The report came out in public domain only after the High Court Chief Justice Manjula Chellur ordered that its copies be provided to petitioners who have filed a public litigation (PIL) in the matter.
The PIL contended that there was rampant corruption in tribal welfare schemes between 2004 and 2009 when ex-NCP minister Dr Vijaykumar Gavit was the minister. The committee, in its report, passed strictures against Gavit, who is now a BJP MLA.
During cross-examination, a couple of tribal project officers informed the committee that contracts had been allotted to Joshaba at the instance of the then Tribal Department Secretary, an IAS officer, who recently attained superannuation. The bureaucrat could not be reached despite several attempts. “The tribal department appeared to have always favoured Joshaba society,” the committee’s report states.