The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Tuesday filed a crucial affidavit before the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court stating that then water resources Minister Ajit Pawar had intervened in the whole process leading to award of contracts for various irrigation projects to ensure that mobilization advance (MA) is granted to contractors by tweaking a government GR and also irregular approval of escalated costs of the project
The ACB affidavit filed by its Director General Sanjay Barve was in response to a specific directive by the court last month seeking affidavit on the role of the former Minister in the alleged irrigation scam.
The ACB has said, “the Water Resources Department (WRD) had issued a circular on April 16, 2008, stating that provision of MA should not be made in any tender. This circular was annulled vide circular dated July 25, 2008. It is pertinent to note that the personal secretary to Ajit Pawar, Suresh Jadhav wrote to the secretary, WRD on May 14, 2008, stating that the Minister had directed that the said circular along with the circular laying down the guidelines for tenders be cancelled and compliance be submitted to the Minister.”
It further said, “the grant of MA in Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation’s (VIDC) tenders was in gross contravention of the rules, the same was granted to bidders who quoted way above 5 pc of the tender cost through a rigged tender process and afforded an undue pecuniary advantage to the contractors. Although the advance is repaid, the advantage derived by the contractor continues to stay.”
MA is a provision for projects worth more than Rs 20 lakh and of completion period of more than one year to purchase latest equipment for improving quality of work, for advance payment to labourers and for creating a temporary residential facility for them and for movement of equipment. But any provision of MA for any project had to be mandatorily mentioned in the tender notice. In VIDC tenders, MA was granted without any such mention in the notice according to the affidavit.
Moreover, MA had a cap of 5 pc of the tender cost. “But in Gosikhurd it was given upto 10 pc for six works, 15 pc for 1 work and 20 pc in four other works,” the affidavit further mentions, adding, “the total MA in Gosikhurd amounted to Rs 182.96 crore and Jigaon project, Rs 12.11 crore.”
The ACB says, “any MA proposal has to be routed through Principal Secretary, WRD. The WRD had issued a circular on April 16, 2008 that provision of MA should not be made in any tender. This circular was annulled vide circular dated July 25, 2008.”
The tender costs were updated in order to fit the cost quoted by the contractor with the intention to bring the MA provision within the permissible 5 pc limit, the affidavit mentions.
The affidavit also brings to fore violations of Rules 10 and 14 of Maharashtra Government Rules of Business and Instruction. “Rule 10 makes the Minister in-charge responsible for all the business and the disposal thereof appertaining to his department. According to Rule 14, Secretary of the Department is responsible for careful observance of these rules.”
The affidavit refers to a note-sheet initiated by WRD on November 11, 2005, Pawar has stated that, to expedite the projects in Vidarbha, the approval proposals must be directly sent by the Executive Director (ED) of VIDC to the Chairman (who is the Minister himself). “as a result scrutiny by the key functionary of WRD, that is, Secretary, who is responsible for careful observance of rules, is conspicuously absent on all note-sheets pertaining to MA and grant of sanction for the project.”