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HindustanTimes Wed,23 Apr 2014

Agricultural dept for vigilance probe against Khemka

Hitender Rao & Rajesh Moudgil, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, December 03, 2013
First Published: 18:18 IST(3/12/2013) | Last Updated: 20:09 IST(3/12/2013)

More trouble, it seems, is in store for Haryana IAS officer, Ashok Khemka. The agriculture department has recommended a vigilance probe into the allotment of a work order to an Ahmedabad-based company, M/s Proflex Systems, by Khemka during his tenure as managing director, Haryana State Warehousing Corporation (HSWC), in 2009.

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Recommending a vigilance probe, principal secretary, agriculture (PSA), Roshan Lal in a November-18 communication to the chief secretary said there appears to be a lot of weight in the allegations made by the complainant. The PSA, when contacted, though refused to comment.

His communication said as HSWC MD Khemka took the Board of Directors (BoD) for granted by keeping it in dark about the introduction of a new technology - Galvalume roofing sheets, a major policy decision requiring the prior approval of the Board.

"Tendering process was vitiated once the specifications mentioned in the tender notice were changed after the pre-bid meeting. No cost analysis based on market survey was done to ascertain whether the rate of `1,127 per square metre was lowest or not," it said.

The modus operandi of giving repeat orders worth crores to Proflex without inviting fresh tenders for discovering latest market rates is also against established norms of tendering, it said.

"It rather points to a criminal nexus between Khemka, HSWC executive engineer Vaneet Chawla and Proflex. Prima facie this points to a scam in the allotment of repeat work orders to the same party for extraneous considerations," the communiqué read.

The PSA wrote that while on February 18, 2009, Khemka had already placed the order for Galvalume roofing sheet at his own level prior to the Board meeting yet he did not disclose in the agenda about the work orders worth crores already allotted. This way he tried to legitimise the irregularities committed by him in introducing a new technology," his communication read.

The BoD on December 21, 2009, gave an "in-principle" approval to the new technology subject to comparative field study of health of foodgrains stored in the conventional asbestos cement sheet godowns and Galvalume sheet godowns, and advice of Central Warehousing Corporation.

The department, which sent its comments following a complaint by Panchkula-based one Ravinder Kumar said the BoD in 2008 approved the construction of godowns of 61,000 metric tonne capacity using the existing technology of ACC sheets. The then MD undid the spirit of the BoD resolution by adopting a new technology, which was yet to be tested in the country. "He was not competent to change the decision of the BoD at his own level by switching over to a new technology without BoDs or government nod," it said.

Since the technology was new, it would have been prudent to get a comparative study regarding the cost benefit ratio of both the technologies done. "Adverse effect of asbestos sheets on health and storage were examined on the basis of literature available on the internet and informal consultations through private operators. No studies to substantiate the said claim are available in the HSWC record. The specifications of Galvalume sheets available in India were not studied."

It appears that Khemka was in tearing hurry to introduce the new technology at his own level without following the due procedure and without exercising due diligence….," the department note said.

The condition of tender notice - the quantity may increase or decrease up to any extent - defied all logic and invaded the established norms of tendering procedures. It can also be pointer to some hidden agenda to subsequently favour the successful tenderer, it said.

"In the tender notice it was mentioned that imported Galvalume sheets would be used whereas during the pre-bid meeting imported Galvalume sheets of only Dong Bu brand of South Korea were mentioned, which is against norms of tendering procedure and seems to have been done only to favour Proflex," the note said.


Allegations motivated, aimed at character assassination: Khemka

On being contacted through e-mail, Haryana IAS officer, Ashok Khemka said these allegations can be answered only after access to the relevant records in HSWC. The allegations are motivated and deliberate, aimed at character assassination by vested interests in the political executive and the bureaucracy who were completely exposed in land-licensing and seed scams. There is a terror-like atmosphere where employees are threatened to speak falsehood and hide the truth, so that vested interests from the political executive may cast aspersions on my character in the media without an opportunity of defence, he wrote.

"I was in HSWC from July 11, 2008, to April 23, 2010. As far as I remember the use of Galvalume sheets was approved by the HSWC BoD sometime in 2009, when Roshan Lal was the chairman. The use of galvalume sheets was also reviewed in a meeting by the chief secretary sometime in November, 2009. HSWC was the first mover to replace asbestos cement sheets in the roofing of food storage godowns to make the food safer to consume by citizens. The use of Galvalume sheets in food storage godowns was studied by IIT-Delhi and there is a very positive finding. The case was also referred to CWC and the food ministry by the state agriculture department. On such reference, the use of Galvalume sheets is now mandatory by an order dated May 30, 2013, of the FCI for roofing in new godowns for storage of food grains."

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