Daily World Exclusive: VB widens probe; top Punjab IAS officers under scanner

DW Bureau / Chandigarh

In what appears to be a scam involving thousands of crores, the names of as many as 11 senior Punjab IAS and PCS officers, including former Chief Administrators of GMADA and PUDA, those who served in the StateÔÇÖs Housing Department; and ÔÇÿpowerfulÔÇÖ officers posted in the former Deputy Chief MinisterÔÇÖs Office have figured during the agencyÔÇÖs probe against Chief Engineer Surinderpal Singh who was arrested on corruption charges a few days ago, it is learnt.

Top sources informed Daily World on Thursday that while some of the officers had direct links with Surinderpal (also known as Pahalwan), the others allegedly showered favours on some contractors close to Surinderpal in the allotment of works worth hundreds of crores. ÔÇ£We have credible evidence against some of these officers and the probe is on to ascertain the facts,ÔÇØ a senior vigilance officer said.

The State Vigilance found that during the tenure of as Divisional Engineer (C-1) in GMADA, more than 200 works were allotted resulting in the execution of projects worth Rs 1,030 crore. Out of these, projects worth Rs 500 crore were executed by three companies ÔÇö M/s Onkar Builders and Contractors, M/s Rajindra and Co and M/s Oasis Technocons Limited. ÔÇ£Most tenders allotted to these firms were above DNIT rates, whereas only two to three contractors were used to bid in the tenders. In most of the tender bidding cases, it has been found that the three companies used to give supporting bids to one another resulting in bidding at higher rates,ÔÇØ they added.

Sources said Surinderpal also got amended and approved some additional clauses in tender inviting notice of Standard Bid Document (SBD) of GMADA. ÔÇ£By taking advantage of these additional clauses which put restrictions on some bidders and were favourable to some companies, projects amounting to more than Rs 2 crore were largely being allotted to these three companies. Many agencies did not participate in the bidding of tenders as they feared that they could be disqualified or debarred under the pressure of the cartel,ÔÇØ a top vigilance officer informed.

He said financial verifications so far had established huge transactions between M/s Onkar Builders and the four companies belonging to the accused SurinderpalÔÇÖs wife and associates. The are credible evidence that the former Chief Engineer was allegedly taking pecuniary financial benefits from M/s Onkar Builders by favouring it during the allotment of GMADA works, he added.

He Acquired 92 properties during 2001-16: Probe Report

Investigations into the GMADA scam have revealed that the accused Chief Engineer, Surinderpal allegedly purchased 92 properties, especially in Ludhiana district of Punjab during 2001-16, out of which 42 properties have been purchased in the name of Access Agro Seed, 5 in the name of Award Agro Traders, 11 in the name of Auster Agro Traders, 20 in the name of Akme Crushers and Builders, two in the name of Ek Onkar Builders and Contractors and about 12 properties in the name of his relatives and self. The VB found that in 2014, Surinderpal allegedly purchased a 2-kanal house in Chandigarh in the name of Award Agro Traders.

Ôé╣57 cr cash deposited in 3 companies run by PahalwanÔÇÖs wife: VB

The State Vigilance has found that around Rs 20 crore in cash was deposited till March, 2016 in Access Agro Seeds Pvt Ltd, Ludhiana (formed on March 2005), in which the former Chief EngineerÔÇÖs wife Mandeep Kaur and mother Swarnjit Kaur are the directors. Besides this, about Rs 18 crore in cash was deposited in another company, Award Agro Traders Pvt Ltd, in which the same persons are the directors.

Similarly, the probe agency also found that about Rs 19 crore in cash was deposited in the third company ÔÇö Auster Agro Traders Pvt Ltd, Ludhiana, in which the two are the directors. ÔÇ£We have got evidence that M/s Ek Onkar executed contracts with GMADA and Punjab Mandi Board and most payments deposited in its accounts were received from GMADA and the Mandi Board. It has been found that large chunks of cash were withdrawn from M/s Ek OnkarÔÇÖs accounts and corresponding amounts in cash were allegedly deposited in the accounts of Access, Award and Auster, sources said.

His meteoric rise had put agencies on alert

Surinderpal ÔÇö a close relative of a powerful IAS officer in the previous SAD-BJP regime ÔÇö had joined as Junior Engineer (Civil) in Punjab Mandi Board in January 1993.

He was appointed SDO (Civil), Ludhiana in Punjab Mandi Board in June 1996. The officer was given additional charge of XEN, Ludhiana in October 1999 and two years later, promoted as XEN. From June 2006 to September 2012, Surinderpal held additional charge of XEN, Muktsar, XEN, Bathinda and XEN, Mohali in Punjab Mandi Board.

In September 2012, he was given additional charge of Divisional Engineer (C-1) in GMADA. Subsequently, the officer was given the additional charge of XEN, Jalandhar and then of the Superintending Engineer in Punjab Mandi Board. In August, 2013, Surinderpal was also given additional charge of SE in GMADA and joined GMADA on deputation as Chief Engineer in February 2016.

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