THE MAHARASHTRA Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) recently recorded the statement of Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament Sanjay Kakade in the alleged multi-crore Sion-Panvel Highway toll collection scam. Kakade was a founding director of the company Kakade Infrastructure Pvt Ltd or KIPL, which is being probed for its alleged role in the scam.
When contacted, Kakade confirmed that his statement was recorded. “I have given my statement in July and have shared all the necessary documents with the agency,” Kakade told The Indian Express.
In June, the state agency had filed a case of criminal misconduct and cheating under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and certain sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act against the state road construction agency’s chief engineer Prakash Mamdapure, former superintendent engineer Kisan Mane, the then executive engineer Rajendra Javanjal and companies IVRCL Ltd and KIPL Ltd .
The sections of law invoked included cheating (420) criminal conspiracy (120(B)), criminal breach of trust (409), forgery (467, 468,) and common intent (34) of the IPC, along with Sections 13 1(c)(d), 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
Earlier this week, speaking in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said several violations had taken place during the process of awarding the contract for the Sion-Panvel highway toll collection to the company. Fadnavis added that those found guilty of the offence would not be spared and would be arrested.
“Police officials have also initiated a probe against several officials, such as chief engineer, superintendent engineer and executive engineers of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation, who were allegedly responsible,” he had told the Assembly.
According to sources, the probe revealed that the tender process was compromised and norms were flouted. “While the eligibility on the financial criteria was that the minimum net worth for the company should be Rs 250 crore, KIPL’s net worth was negative. KIPL entered into a Joint Venture (JV) with a Hyderabad-based company IVRCL only to facilitate the JV and bag the contract,” said an official privy to the probe. “IVRCL was capable of bidding for the contract as a sole bidder. They have failed to give a satisfactory answer on why they entered into a JV with KIPL,” added the source.
The source also said that other bidders who were eligible were kept out. “The PWD officials restricted competition in the tendering process by not allowing the other eligible bidders to bid for the project,” the source added.
Kakade, however, defended the decision to form a JV saying that as it was a local company, they decided to enter into a JV with IVRCL. “Entering into JV is not illegal. As in the past we have bagged contract for various projects, we decided to enter into a JV with IVRCL. The JV was found eligible on both technical and financial criteria while awarding the contract, so there is no question of flouting the tender norms,” said Kakade.
Activist Pravin Wategaonkar had filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court seeking an investigation into the alleged corrupt practices in the tendering process. The petitioner had alleged that KIPL had no prior experience in such projects but was awarded the contract. In March, the Bombay HC had asked the ACB to complete its open inquiry within three months. The ACB had later registered an FIR and the investigations are underway.