CBI probe sought into new Assembly project ‘graft’

Defalcation of funds, inflation of project cost alleged

SHILLONG, July 1: The Hynniewtrep Youth Council (HYC) has sought an independent inquiry, preferably by the Central Bureau of Investigation, into the alleged ‘irregularities’ in the execution of the new Assembly building project at Mawdiangdiang.
In a letter to Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh on Friday, the HYC said the High-Powered Committee (HPC) should recommend an independent inquiry to the state government. It said responsibilities should be fixed for embezzlement of public funds and corruption by inflating or escalating the cost of a project without following due process.
Giving details of the alleged irregularities, HYC general secretary Roy Kumar Synrem said the notice of inviting tender was issued by the PWD (Buildings) on September 6, 2018, for the work on the new Assembly building at an estimated cost of Rs 105.59 crore and the period of completion of the project was 36 months.
“After careful discussion, the HPC under the chairmanship of the Assembly Speaker in its meeting on February 21, 2019, approved the decision of the PWD (Building) Departmental Tender Committee of 2018-19 held on January 22, 2019, which had recommended to pre-qualify only Uttar Pradesh Rajkiya Nirman Nigam Limited (UPRNNL) and further directed the chief engineer, PWD (Buildings) to take necessary action for the opening of the financial bid of the pre-qualified bidder,” he wrote.
He said the HPC met again on February 28, 2019, where the chief engineer of PWD (B) said the financial bids of UPRNNL were opened according to the committee’s recommendations and the rate quoted by the bidder was Rs 127.76 crore, which was 21% above the estimated cost of the project.
According to Synrem, the chief engineer informed the committee that the rate quoted by the bidder had been accepted since the estimate was prepared on the basis of SOR (B) for 2015-16 fiscal and since the tendering process started after three years in 2018-19, there were considerable variations in the cost of construction materials and labour charge.
The HYC general secretary observed that according to Clause 7.0 of the General Condition of Contract (GCC), the escalation amount will not be paid to the contractor during the execution phase.
“After hearing the explanation given by the chief engineer of the PWD (B) on high quoted rate and after detailed discussion, the HPC recommended allotting the work to UPRNNL at their own quoted rate… Thereafter, on March 4, 2019, the letter of award (LOA) was issued to UPRNNL for the work,” he said.
Synrem said the information provided by the office of the chief engineer and the executive engineer of PWD (B) relating to the project raises serious doubts about irregularities, defalcation of funds, money laundering and a serious case of corruption by all parties or departments or officers concerned.
“The proceedings of the HPC on February 21, 2019, and February 28, 2019, as well as the copy of the LOA of March 4, 2019, make it crystal clear that the amount of tender for the work was 21% above the estimated cost and no further escalation will be accepted during the execution stages. This was decided by the HPC and it is one of the conditions written in the GCC,” he said.
The HYC general secretary said it is strange that the office of the PWD (B) chief engineer has no knowledge of any escalation or inflation because on this query, he had forwarded the RTI application to the office of the executive engineer, PWD (B), Shillong Division.
He said the office of the executive engineer, PWD (B) admitted to an escalation in the project cost, which was now Rs 177.78 crore, out of which Rs 160.3 crore has already been released or paid to the contractor to date.
The same officer also replied that the original approved cost of Rs 141.15 crore differed from the tender amount of Rs 127.76 crore provided by the office of the PWD (B) chief engineer vide the LOA issued.
“Now the question that begs for an answer is, how did the PWD (B) executive engineer come up with the ‘original approved cost’ when the LOA issued to the UPRNNL was Rs 127.76-crore? Who authorised the said PWD (B) executive engineer to change the cost of tender value from the amount provided in the LOA to that of the so-called ‘original approved cost’?” Synrem asked.
He said the answer provided by the PWD (B) executive engineer made it apparent that approval of cost escalation was never sought from the HPC.
“This is completely illegal, as it is clear that the owner of this project is the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly and the PWD (Buildings) is only the executing agency on behalf of the Assembly. How come its approval was not sought in the case of inflation of the project cost? Or is there complicity between the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly and the PWD (Buildings) in this illegal act?” he asked.

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