Former Chief Vigilance Officer of the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) Satish Verma, whose report about alleged irregularities in an Arunachal dam project has named MoS (Home) Kiren Rijiju, his cousin and several officials, said Wednesday that his Rs 450-crore estimate of the loss due to the alleged fraud was a “conservative” one.
Rijiju claimed that the total transportation cost in the Kameng Hydel Power Project (KaHEP) was just Rs 400 crore and 90 per cent of the project was complete. So, he said, the alleged irregularities could not be worth Rs 450 crore.
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Responding to this, Verma told The Indian Express that he had a basis for the figure. “Each truck carries an average of 10 cubic metre of boulders. The rate fixed by NEEPCO for the contractor for extra lead (the technical name used for carriage expense) was Rs 75 per km per cubic metre, and an ad-hoc rate of Rs 60 per km per cubic metre was being paid. Given that the contractor was claiming to have brought the stones from the farthest quarries which were 80 km away, each truck would be paid Rs 48,000 for each trip (at Rs 60 per km). I had seen that extra lead payments after all deductions during Jan-May 2016 in Bichom dam were approximately Rs 9 crore per month, at an average monthly boulder utilisation of 25,000 cubic meters. For all civil work as a whole, the total boulder requirement of the project would be in the ballpark of 1 million cubic meters. Rest is a simple back-of-the envelope multiplication.”
Verma added that at Rs 75 per km per cubic metre, which would ultimately be paid to the contractor, the figure would be much more than Rs 450 crore. In his report, Verma said that he had found several transport challans and invoices that were fake and thousands of tonnes of boulders were, on paper, being transported by scooters and cars.
Verma also denied allegations against him by the government about professional misconduct and unauthorised absence from work.
A Press Information Bureau (PIB) statement on Tuesday said that Verma was chargesheeted on May 9 for “continued violation of CVC instructions and for violation of All India Service Rules, 1968, for not performing his duties with due dilligence and care.” It said that Verma had stayed away from his NEEPCO office for 310 days in an 18-month period “without intimating authorities or submitting any tour reports.”
Verma said it was precisely this chargesheet that he had challenged in the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in Guwahati and was granted a stay on disciplinary proceedings against him. “The CVC dispatched a letter to me on May 4 that I could not leave NEEPCO headquarters without the permission of the CMD and on May 9 I was issued a charge memorandum for unauthorised absence. I received both together on May 10. I was also not given any chance to defend myself before the chargesheet was prepared. This is against the rules.
The court took cognisance of this, agreed that the charge memo was issued in haste and passed an appropriate order,” Verma said.
Explaining his absence from NEEPCO for 310 days, Verma said all of it was on account of sanctioned leave or for investigation purposes. “I had availed of duly sanctioned leave for a total of 147 days and had stayed outside NEEPCO headquarters for the remaining 163 days for performing bona fide and verifiable duties of attending meetings and conducting important vigilance investigations — most of which were entrusted to me by the CVC and the MoP,” said Verma adding that he had made these submissions in his CAT petition as well.
He said that while he was hauled over the coals for “bona fide” absence, no questions were asked of NEEPCO CMD P C Pankaj who was out of headquarters in the corresponding period for 322 days.
The PIB statement has also accused Verma of submitting “10 back dated reports” — including those of irregularities in NEEPCO dam project — to the Ministry of Power and of retaining official files in his personal custody even after he was transferred out of NEEPCO.
Verma says that the final reports of his investigations were ready and signed for despatch by the time his transfer orders came on July 4.
“It was not as if I sat and wrote the reports overnight after receiving transfer orders. The documents attached with my report will show that work on the report was going on since July 2015,” he said.
He added that since copies of the voluminous annexures with the reports were not ready till then, those reports had to be sent later as the annexures had to be copied for the CVC, MoP and CBI. “I had carried some files to my residential office to work on them. But I had to rush out of Shillong as my father was not well and I duly informed NEEPCO about the files with me through email,” Verma said.
Verma said he had also been charged with not submitting “inspection reports” after his tours to the CMD which he says he was not supposed to do. “First of all, I was not conducting inspections but vigilance investigations on my tours. There is no rule that asks me to submit interim reports of investigations to somebody (in this case, CMD Pankaj) who was himself disclosed in those investigations to be complicit in corruption,” Verma said.
Asked about Verma’s allegations, Pankaj had told The Indian Express: “I don’t know what’s in the (CVO’s) report. But I can say that all decisions were taken by the (NEEPCO) board as the project was stalled and stones had to be brought from river beds notified by the state government….As far as fake bills are concerned, I don’t know. The process was such that whatever payment was done it was done on the basis of certification from the state government. So the state government has certified that this much material has been transported from here to here. On that basis the payment was made by the site officials.”