Thirteen years before Sharad Pawar's nephew Ajit Pawar resigned as deputy chief minister over graft allegations, a senior official from Pune's Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) had drawn the state government's attention to corruption in irrigation projects in western Maharashtra.
SM Mushrif had, as Superintendent of Police (ACB), Pune, submitted in September 1999 a report to the bureau's Inspector General on irregularities in the sector and sought permission to probe cases and register offences. "No action has been taken so far, and the methods (of graft) I had referred to have been exposed," Mushrif, now retired, said.
Mushrif said hundreds of crores of taxpayers' money could have been saved if the government had acted on his report.
The report had pointed out that the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation (MKVDC), which handles irrigation projects in western Maharashtra, had introduced a system of pre-qualification of contractors, giving a choice to officials to select a particular party among registered contractors. "Large-scale favouritism took place. Those in the good books of politicians and officials were given contracts," he said.
This was during the tenure of the Sena-BJP government, between 1995 and 1999.
Mushrif had alleged manipulation of tender notices in newspapers. "Notices would be published in only a few copies of a paper. These copies were circulated among select people and kept for official records."
In several cases, he said, the estimated costs of projects were increased, and sometimes doubled. "Competition among contractors was deliberately avoided to pass the tender at the higher cost. Whenever there was competition, tender prices came down," he said.
He also noted how MKVDC gave advances to contractors in violation of rules. In Wang in Satara, an advance of Rs. 13 crore was given against the project cost of Rs. 80 crore. "This contractor did not start work for more than a year and asked the MKVDC to waive interest on the advance," Mushrif noted. He said the ACB's job was not merely to arrest officials who were accepting bribes. "We have to go to the origin of corruption," he said.
Ramraje Nimbalkar, minister in charge of MKVDC, said he was not aware of any such report. "I don't know whether the ACB even forwarded such a report to the department or the government," he said.