ACB widens irrigation scam probe net; Ajit Pawar still not under scanner | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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ACB widens irrigation scam probe net; Ajit Pawar still not under scanner

mumbai Updated: Feb 27, 2015 00:34 IST
Ketaki Ghoge

On the back foot for not probing the Vidarbha irrigation scam, the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) on Thursday accepted a complaint from NGO Jan Manch into one such project, essentially widening the net of the irrigation scam probe.

This is the first time the ACB will probe a Vidarbha project for corruption and the alleged nexus between officials and contractors.

The 3,100-page complaint details how tenders were fudged to benefit favoured contractors, and how costs were escalated. The complaint pertains to one of the canal projects in Gosikhurd — the state’s biggest dam.

The Jan Manch petition, filed in the Nagpur bench of the Bombay HC, had blown the lid off the scam as it alleged former water resources minister Ajit Pawar had hiked costs of 38 projects by Rs20,000 crore, before the 2009 polls. However, as HT had reported earlier this month, despite making a statement in the court, the ACB had not got a mandate from the state to inquire into the Vidarbha scam.

“We have made only one detailed complaint, as a test sample case of all wrongdoings in the scam. This tender shows how a particular contractor was selected by fudging norms of technical evaluation and the modus operandi to hike costs and evade financial scrutiny. It can unravel the entire scam,” said Anil Kilore, the complainant.

As this complaint does not lead to political bosses, and is limited to officials and
contractors, Pawar will not be under ACB’s scanner for now.

The tender papers show irrigation officials, in a bid to avoid scrutiny of the finance department — mandatory for cost escalation over 5% — first overestimated project cost, then handed it to a favoured contractor, who on paper made a bid for it within the 5% hike. For instance, if the project cost is Rs100 crore, irrigation officials drew papers estimating cost at Rs120 crore and gave it to contractors for Rs125 crore.

Kilore refused to name the project, as this would compromise inquiry, but sources said it leads to one of the biggest contractors in Vidarbha.