Making clear its desire to unearth irregularities and scams in the state’s irrigation projects, the BJP-led state government scrapped as many as 128 tenders for projects worth Rs624.28 crore. The tenders were awarded a few months before the Assembly elections. The government also sanctioned an anti-corruption bureau (ACB) probe in 12 other irrigation projects in Konkan, after the water resources department claimed to have found major irregularities in them.
Officials from the department said they came across major irregularities, especially in the tendering procedure. The department said due procedure of inviting e-tenders was not followed and the tenders were approved in a hurried manner. In some cases, forest and environmental approvals were not received, while in other cases, tenders were called for projects that did not require them.
Water resources minister Girish Mahajan said the tenders were allotted four months prior to the Assembly elections. “The tenders were called without allowing fair competition among the contractors and were allotted above the quoted amount. Since the work orders were not issued, money was not released and hence the state’s coffers suffered no loss,” Mahajan said.
The highest number of tenders (57) was invited by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation, worth Rs237.60 crore, followed by 47 tenders by Krishna Valley Development Corporation worth Rs286.22 crore. Three other irrigation corporations had invited 24 tenders for various projects worth Rs100.46 crore.
The minister had previously stayed projects worth Rs1,100 crore soon after taking charge of the department claiming due procedure was not followed. The minister had previously stayed projects worth Rs1,100 crore soon after taking charge of the department claiming due procedure was not followed. He had ordered the department to investigate. Of these, 128 were found to have irregularities and were eventually scrapped.
On Thursday, Mahajan said the tenders will be reissued after being reviewed thoroughly. “Tenders for projects worth more than Rs3 lakh are called online. We will follow the correct procedure while re-allotting them. Unlike the previous government, we will follow the post-qualification process. The earlier tenders were awarded on a pre-qualification basis, favoring certain contractors. Our priority will be to complete the irrigation projects that are almost finished rather than kick-start new ones.”
He claimed the allocation of the tenders took place during the tenure of former water resources ministers Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare.
While talking about 12 projects, which the ACB is probing, the minister said major irregularities were cited in them. “Like the Kondane dam project, in which the cost was escalated four times in just three months, there are 11 other irrigation projects with major irregularities," he said.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), however, rubbished the claims and dared the government to come clear on the tender allocation. “We had written a letter to the department seeking details of the cancelled tenders, but there has been no response as yet,” said state head of the party Sunil Tatkare.