CAG detects Rs 149-cr scam in Saubhagya Scheme

SHILLONG, July 5: The state Power department, bedevilled by a litany of controversies, has been caught on the wrong foot by CAG which in its audit report has exposed financial bungling of over Rs 149 crore while implementing Centre’s flagship programme “Saubhagya”.
The damning CAG findings which nail the government denial in the state Assembly, is fraught with ominous portents for the ruling conglomerate as some coalition partners and the opposition are likely to precipitate the issue.
The CAG report, which The Shillong Times has accessed, has pronounced that the Power department has provided “undue favour” to a Delhi firm by awarding the turn-key Saubhagya Scheme causing a loss of Rs 149.12 crore.
CAG found that “improper” deletion of Bidding document clause i.e. “in case quoted price of a bid is found to be 15% below or above the estimated cost of the package, the bid would be treated as non-responsive,” resulting in undue favour to bidders and award of work at abnormally higher rates which resulted in avoidable loss of 118.28 crore to the state.
Moreover, transformers supplied by the turn-key contractors viz M/s Satnam Global from Delhi were of very poor quality and many are lying in the repair workshop in Guwahati.
According to sources, although Saubhagya Scheme is designed to benefit 1.60 lakh beneficiaries in Khasi-Jaintia Hills region, there is a post-haste attempt to officially close the scheme, even though 30,000 targeted families are yet to receive power connection. However, the closure of the scheme ran into obstacle as key officers were dragging their feet in signing on the dotted lines. This explains the sudden removal of key officers and posting of new ones.
Delay in signing the closure of the favourite scheme of Power Minister, James Sangma executed by Director of the infamous Satnam Global, Himanshu Jain, who is said to be literally running the Power Department and MeECL from behind the scenes is causing anxieties. It is alleged that Jain who has easy access to the Power Minister and is regularly seen in his chamber, was the reason two top officers were removed on same day.
Naturally, there are rumblings even within the bureaucracy even as the Power Secretary and CMD, MeECL are removed from their posts on the same day. The plausible inference is that the two bureaucrats have been removed for refusing to put their signatures on the closure documents related to the Saubhagya Scheme which is already under the scanner.
An Indian Forest Service officer, Manjunath C. has been appointed the new Power Secretary. He has no experience of the power sector and was brought in only to sign the closure of Saubhagya Scheme. Incidentally the same officer is also Secretary, Forest Department also held by Power Minister, James Sangma.
A senior engineer on condition of anonymity wondered why when schemes like Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (RAPDRP), Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY), Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS), etc., that are older than the Saubhagya are not yet closed why there is so much hurry to close this scheme when work is still incomplete.
It is learnt that the Power Secretary had asked MeECL to provide all the necessary documents and installation and commissioning reports but due to undue pressure from Himanshu Jain to sign the closure on same day led to his instant removal.
Sources in the Power Department say that in the last few years the bulk of payment made to M/s Satnam Global was done without verifying the quality and progress of the work while other contractors especially the local and small contractors suffered due to non- payment of their dues for work executed by them in the past few years on behalf of Satnam Global.
Those in the know say they are waiting and watching to see if the new CMD (R. Suchiang) and Power Secretary (Manjunath C.) will fall in line with Himanshu Jain or if they will take a firm stand and insist, like the former incumbents did on proper documentation and site progress verification and wait for the independent enquiry report and CAG report before declaring the scheme closed.
It will also be interesting to see whether the Government of India will take cognisance of the CAG reports and stop the closure funds amounting nearly Rs 100 crore due to Meghalaya and in turn to the turn-key contractors in Saubhagya Scheme.
Saubhagya which means ‘good luck’ seems to be just the opposite for the MDA Government and the Power Department in particular. This scheme has stirred up a hornet’s nest which threatens to dislodge the ruling Government. The Opposition Congress demands that this scheme should be investigated by a high-powered Committee while the BJP, a coalition partner, threatens to litigate against the non-supply of information and documents requisitioned by the RTI route which are related to the Scheme.
Government of India launched the Saubhagya Scheme in October 2017 to achieve universal household electrification in the country. The Government of Meghalaya agreed in March 2018 to join the scheme. Recently the CAG has conducted a performance audit of the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) and Saubhagya Scheme (copies of the same are with ST) and found undue favour in award of work in January 2019 to Satnam resulting in avoidable expenditure of 149.21 crore to the state.
Incidentally, Diki D Shira, Director of Corporate Affairs too has been swept aside and Cyril Diengdoh has been appointed in his place. But interestingly, Arunkumar Kembhavi continues to be the Director Finance, MeECL.
When contacted former Power Secretary Praveen Bakshi said, “We are part of a system and I have been Power Secretary for about one and half years so it’s a routine transfer.”
Former MeECL CMD, Arunkumar Kembhavi could not be contacted for his comments.

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