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Outdoor surveillance project: Clean chit to Hry officers

india Updated: Jun 01, 2013 16:06 IST
Hitender Rao
Hitender Rao
Hindustan Times
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Giving a virtual clean chit to Haryana cadre IAS officer Ankur Gupta and IPS officer Mohinder Lal who were involved in the selection of a system integrator for the supply, installation and management of outdoor surveillance system for the police commissionerates of Gurgaon and Faridabad, the Haryana government has decided to get a criminal case registered against Babu Joseph, chief executive officer of a purported Germany-based company that was awarded the project.

The case will be registered in Chandigarh, where the agreement between the company and HARTRON was executed. Joseph had also applied for an anticipatory bail in Panchkula but it was rejected. Also, the state government had decided to scrap the entire project.

The state government, though, has not spared Haryana State Electronics Development Corporation (HARTRON) officials Sandeep Kapoor and Rajeev Monga and ordered departmental action against them. "They will be charge-sheeted under major penalty clause," an official confirmed.

When the agreement between Joseph's company and HARTRON was executed, Ankur Gupta, a 1990-batch IAS officer was posted as managing director of HARTRON and 1983-batch IPS officer Mohinder Lal was additional director general of police (administration), handling the outdoor surveillance project.

The state government has agreed with the findings of the Haryana Vigilance Bureau which had investigated the matter and submitted a report to the state government. "It has been left to the state government to decide what action it wants or does not want to take against Ankur Gupta and Mohinder Lal for their 'limited involvement' in the matter on the basis of the findings of the report," the official said.

In its report, the bureau listed out aspects related to the role of Gupta and Lal in handling the selection process of system integrator. The report said IPS officer Mohinder Lal had extended the time for demonstration of the surveillance equipment, pushed for extension of deadline for depositing bank guarantee by the company and showed unwarranted enthusiasm.

The report said IAS officer Ankur Gupta did not exercise due diligence in the entire process. "The officer should have been more careful, especially when the principal secretary, information technology, had asked him to examine various aspects related to the bidding and selection process. He also did not act on a complaint forwarded by the principal secretary, IT, in this regard and sat on it after writing 'seen'," the report said. The report also said that during the investigation, the police department and HARTRON had kept on passing the buck to each other.

The vigilance inquiry was initiated on the orders of chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in 2011 after the information technology (IT) department found discrepancies in the selection of a purported Germany-based company, LevelOne Communications, perceived to be having an Indian subsidiary, LevelOne Communication India, as system integrator for the project.

The project was also put on hold by the government and HARTRON official Sandeep Kapoor was placed under suspension on the orders of the CM. The bureau had also recommended forfeiture of the company's bank guarantee of Rs 5.90 crore. The only saving grace for the indicted officers was that no pecuniary loss was caused to the state exchequer, as no money was paid by the state government to the selected company for Rs-59-crore project.
Hindustan Times was first to unravel the irregularities in the entire process. The VB report to a large extent agreed with the findings of an inquiry done by the information technology department.

The findings

The vigilance bureau found that an Indian company, LevelOne Communications, had used the name of a purported Germany-based company, LevelOne Communications, fraudulently to win the bid for the project. The Indian company is run by one Babu Joesph.

A preliminary inquiry conducted by the IT department had found that no company by the name of LevelOne Communications, Germany, existed. Levelone is a brand of Digitial Data Communication GmbH, a company based in Dortmund, Germany.

Babu Joseph, man who signed the agreement on behalf of LevelOne with HARTRON, had told HT that he owned an Indian company by the name and style of LevelOne Communications (India) Private Limited and was authorised by the German entity to sign the agreement on its behalf, as he was a director of the German company. Joseph also said they were in no way connected with Digital Data Communication (DDC).

Balance-sheet papers submitted by LevelOne, however, mention that LevelOne Communication Group is a 100% subsidiary of Digital Data Communication GmbH, while a certificate issued by the company's chartered accountant says that LevelOne Communications (India) Private Limited is a 100% subsidiary of LevelOne Communication Group, Germany.

HT investigations revealed that the information submitted by Joseph's company, LevelOne Communications, India, to the ministry of corporate affairs in form 23 AC carried contradictory details. The information stated categorically that LevelOne Communications (India) Private Limited was neither a subsidiary company of any holding company nor has a subsidiary company.

Scanned signatures used

The vigilance bureau also found during its investigations that the perpetrators used scanned signatures of a representative of Digital Data Communication (DDC), Amanda Shu Wen Chen, to forge letters and documents to make a bid for the project. It had come out in the forensic examination of the documents.

Chen, under whose name and signatures documents were sent to HARTRON regularly on behalf of LevelOne Communications, Germany, had, in a an email to HARTRON from her Digital Data Communication (ddcasia.com) domain had earlier also refused to acknowledge the letters and documents sent by her, saying she never signed them. She had also said that LevelOne Communication GmbH did not exist.

Chen, who is managing director of DDC, had said in an e-mail to HARTRON that Babu Joseph was a distributor of DDC in India and authorised to present DDC brands LevelOne and Equip. "But we were never involved in this tender nor did we authorise Joseph to bid on behalf of DDC," she wrote in 2011.

Mystery of Wolfgang Kohler

The bureau also uncovered the mystery surrounding the e-mails from one Wolfgang Kohler to HARTRON, in which he refuted the e-mail communications of Amanda and disassociated her from the company. "These emails supposed to have been sent by Kohler were sent actually from the IP address of Babu Joseph's residence," vigilance sources said. Investigations by the IT department had revealed that the internet domain used by Kohler- level-one commuincation.com for sending this email was created recently.