The New Jersey-based Louis Berger International, which has admitted to bribing officials to secure government contracts in India, including in Goa, has a Mumbai connection: it is a consultant for many big-ticket infrastructure projects in the city.
The group has been involved in various capacities over a decade with key projects, such as the Navi Mumbai airport, the Mumbai Metro 3, Metro 1, the monorail project and the SCLR. The cost of these projects is Rs 46,970 crore.
In May, the firm was part of a consortium roped in as general consultants for the Metro 3, estimated to cost Rs 23,136 crore.
The Metro 3 has received a hefty loan from the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), similar to the controversial Goa water development project.
On the heels of the Goa controversy, the firm could land in trouble in Mumbai over the monorail project. BJP’s general secretary Vivekanand Gupta has moved court, seeking a complaint against the firm and the MMRDA officials. The application is expected to be heard on July 24.
Gupta’s application is based on the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report 2014, which pointed to loopholes in the project, including the way LBG was selected as second consultant. RITES was the first consultant.
LBG estimated the project cost at Rs 2,329 crore, which was taken as benchmark for negotiating prices. This estimate was Rs 552 crore more than what was estimated by RITES. The final price for the project was negotiated at Rs 2,716 crore. The report pointed out other irregularities too.
“We have not received any summons that a case is registered against the company on the Monorail project,” said Regine De la Cruz from Louis Berger’s Corporate Communications.
MMRDA, in its reply to the CAG, had argued there was no benchmark for monorail costs, as this was the first such project in the country.
“We have had a long history with Louis Berger. They are seen as leading global consultants and so far, there have been no reports of irregularities or complaints against them. In our future deals, the recent reports against the firms may have to be weighed in,’’ said a senior MMRDA official.