Manish Tiwari | Chandigarh
The annual turnover of one of the contractors who was allotted tenders worth Rs 1,000 crore in Drainage and Kandi wings, went up by almost 60 times — from Rs 4.5 crore in 2007 to Rs 300 crore in 2017
Investigations by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) into the multi-crore irrigation scam have revealed large-scale irregularities in the allotment of projects worth hundreds of crores by allegedly colluding with several high-level officers and imposing tailor-made conditions in tenders and clubbing of works in gross violation of the department guidelines.
“The probe agency has already zeroed in on the contractors and officers who could be involved in the scam and instrumental in the alleged cartelisation and wrongdoings in the allotment of irrigation projects and we are in the process of collecting necessary evidence before we proceed against the accused persons,” a top Vigilance Bureau officer told Daily World on Thursday. The allotment of irrigation works worth hundreds of crores to contractors, including Gurinder Singh and Pushpinder Singh, is being seriously probed by the agency, he added.
There have been reports that the officers, including engineers, in the Irrigation department allegedly connived with a few selected contractors and allotted major works to them in flagrant violation of rules and on much higher rates. Sometimes, sources said, the tenders were allotted to big contractors without even a sanctioned estimate, any mention of work location or the quantum of the work that was to be executed. “The works were clubbed to keep out small contractors and allot all major works to a favoured few,” he added.
The VB probe has found that one of the small-time contractor’s annual turn-over increased almost 60 times, from Rs 4.5 crore to nearly Rs 300 crore in the past 10 years of the previous Akali-BJP regime. During this period, he alone executed irrigation projects worth Rs 1,000 crore and always got the lions’ share during the allotment of works in the Drainage and Kandi wings of the Irrigation Department. VB sources informed that this particular contractor amassed huge wealth and properties in the past 10 years, raising suspicion about the quality and quantity of work executed by his firms.
It has also come to light that many of the projects were allotted at high rates — ranging from 10 to 50 per cent more than the department rates. During the same period, it was found that the contractors in other departments executed works “at par or even lower than the department rates”, further raising doubts over the work allotments. In some cases, the difference in rates of allotment to some of the favoured few as compared to other contractors was more than 30 per cent in several cases.
The VB had received complaints in the past too, but since no one came forward, it had to ultimately work at its own level to collect the leads and proceed in the matter. “We are analysing the evidence collected during the course of our inquiry and will soon recommend registration of an FIR into the scam,” a senior officer added.