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Adelbert moves Lokayukta for action against ten officials

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Saubhagya scam

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, June 12: VPP’s North Shillong legislator Adelbert Nongrum on Wednesday lodged a complaint with the Meghalaya Lokayukta demanding action against ten senior government officials over alleged irregularities in the implementation of the Saubhagya Scheme, as reflected in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on Social and Economic Sectors for the 2021-22 financial year.
In his complaint, Nongrum mentioned the names of the officials, including a former Chief Secretary, a former Additional Chief Secretary in-charge of Power and a former Chairman-cum-Managing Director of the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL), for their alleged involvement in corruption.
The other former officials of the Meghalaya Power Distribution Corporation Limited (MePDCL), which Nongrum mentioned in his complaint, include Director (Distribution), Chief Engineer (Distribution), Chief Engineer (Rural Electrification), Company Secretary, Chief Accounts Officer/Dy Chief Accounts Officer, Additional Chief Engineer (Material Management) and Additional Chief Engineer (Planning & Design). The complaint, which was addressed to Meghalaya Lokayukta chairperson Bhalang Dhar, was handed over to the secretary R Rapthap as the former was not present in his office.
Nongrum told reporters he expects the Lokayukta to act judiciously on his complaint.
“The two major issues currently affecting the state are corruption and drug addiction,” he said.
He said the complaint was lodged under section 13(1) (a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 on the ground that the public servants, indicated in particulars of Serial (2) who were in service at the time in 2018, dishonestly or fraudulently misappropriated property placed under their control as public servants or allowed any other person to do so.
The MLA said the CAG report, which was tabled in the state Assembly on September 22, 2023 and is now in public domain, relates to audit observations on the functioning of state public sector enterprises. Para 3.3 of the report presents audit findings on avoidable expenditure of Rs 156 crore in MePDCL, a conclusive finding which is of significance and alarming concern to accountability of public money.
In the complaint, he said despite an advisory issued by the Cabinet Secretary, an injudicious decision of MePDCL for awarding works under Saubhagya to contractors at their quoted rates resulted in the avoidable expenditure of Rs 156.14 crore.
It was revealed in the audit that the deletion of significant clauses from bid document for works under Saubhagya household electrification programme by the Empowered Committee (Tender) of MePDCL was not only irregular and contrary to the directions given by Rural Electrification Corporation on Standard Bid Document issued by Government of India but also provided undue financial benefits to turnkey contractors.
The audit indicated that the Empowered Committee (Tender) comprised MePDCL officials including Director (Distribution) as Chairman, Chief Engineer (Distribution), Chief Engineer (RE), Company Secretary, Chief Accounts Officer/Deputy Chief Accounts Officer, Additional Chief Engineer (Material Management), Additional Chief Engineer (Planning & Design). The Committee was constituted in October 2017 by MePDCL and hence, the officials were named by designation in the complaint.
Further, it was observed that the Cabinet Secretary, Government of India in a video conference on December 14, 2018 with the Chief Secretary of Meghalaya and other officials of the state government/MePDCL had suggested that the notice inviting tender of Saubhagya scheme be cancelled, and works be taken up departmentally on the reason that the rates quoted by the turnkey contractors were above the estimated cost.
The state government concurred with the proposal and advised MePDCL to comply with the directives of the Cabinet Secretary. However, despite an assurance to the Cabinet Secretary, MePDCL went ahead with the tender and awarded the works to the turnkey contractors in February-March 2019, thereby extending undue financial benefit to them and resulting in avoidable expenditure.
The audit findings indicated that the advisory from the Cabinet Secretary was agreed to by the Chief Secretary of Meghalaya as well as the Additional Chief Secretary (Power). As the agreement was flouted, these officials of the state government were also named by designation in the complaint.
The CAG report revealed that audit carried out item-wise rate comparison of common items being executed departmentally by MePDCL and through turnkey contractors. It was seen that 86 out of 95 items under ‘supply component’ and 44 out of 54 items under ‘erection component’ were common but the rates quoted by the contractors were much higher than the departmental rates. This resulted in avoidable expenditure of Rs 156.14 crore.
Nongrum said the financial bids submitted by Satnam Global Infra Projects Limited, New Delhi and Onycon Enterprises, Mumbai in relation to the tender got reflected in the CAG report.

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