Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Saturday cleared a departmental probe against 45 officials of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), who had been indicted in the ND Vadnere committee report in 2010. The department enquiry had been pending for two years. Chavan himself confirmed that the probe had been approved.
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Several engineers, including VIDC’s former chief executive director D P Shirke, will now face probe on several counts including having turned a blind eye to government norms while clearing cost escalations, not supervising works on site, not following tender conditions etc.
The VIDC Act says the executive director will act on the advice of the managing director, the water resources secretary, but this was not followed with Shirke clearing revised estimates in most projects on his own.
In 2008, the then water resources secretary VB Gaikwad wrote to the government about being bypassed saying revision of tenders on the basis of prevailing market rates had been irregular.
Sources in the government said that the water resources department, cornered over the irrigation scam, finally sent the file for go-ahead.
It is also being said that through the departmental enquiry, the government hopes to buy time to issue the white paper on irrigation and deflect attention from the politicians involved in the scam.
The one-man Vadnere committee was set up in March 2010 following complaints and media reports over cost escalations, and official-contractor-politician nexus in approving projects in Vidarbha.
It is learnt that the committee noted that mobilisation or machinery advances given to contractors were not permissible and there was no such clause in the tender document.
Most tenders scrutinised were seen to have been granted cost escalations flouting government norms like revised technical sanction.
An estimated advance of Rs. 479 crore was paid to contractors for projects in Vidarbha between 2007 and 2009, cleared by the then water resources minister Ajit Pawar and signed by Shirke.