Long before Union Minister Nitin Gadkari expressed his displeasure on the matter, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had been drawing flak for the delayed project of its own office building in Delhi.
In November 2019, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its report to Parliament, flagged that NHAI had blocked funds of around Rs 43.60 crore and paid “avoidable rent” of Rs 11.79 crore in past three years due to the delay in the construction of its office building in Dwarka. The report then said the project was five years behind the scheduled date of completion and over a decade since the release of land for the project.
Speaking at the inauguration of the eight-floor building Monday, the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways said, “The project was decided in 2008. Twelve years, two governments and eight NHAI chairmen came and went before this building could be completed. I am ashamed.” Gadkari, who was addressing the event virtually, said photographs of officials overseeing the project in NHAI should be hung on the walls of the building to mark the delay. “The delay by NHAI should be studied. Let there be a research paper on this. We need to reform NHAI,” he said.
Sources in NHAI told The Indian Express that the project was delayed because the contractor took the matter to litigation and it went to the National Company Law Tribunal. Gadkari has been apprised of reasons for the delay in the past, sources said.
Gadkari said, “I know that if I seek a report (on the delay), it will be said in the report that the delay was on account of the contractor going to the NCLT. But there are people in NHAI with a deranged mentality, who don’t take decisions and who create hurdles in decision-making.”
“Whoever comes as chairman in NHAI, they use these people. Even today such people are being used as the guide and philosopher from top to bottom,” he said, adding that the practice of getting projects overseen by Chief General Manager and General Manager was the reason behind the delay.
While ministry sources said that in several review meetings with NHAI, Gadkari has verbally directed that some bureaucrats who cause delays be punished, NHAI sources said there is so far no proposal for disciplinary action against any official.
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