Another irregularity in water resource department in MP after e-tendering scam
- Retired IAS M Gopal Reddy comes under the scanner again.
After the e-tendering scam, former Madhya Pradesh chief secretary and retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, M Gopal Reddy, is under the scanner again as the state government found an irregularity worth ₹877 crores in the allocation of irrigation projects in the water resource department (WRD).
The state government has decided to hand over the probe to the Economic Offence Wing (EOW) on the instructions of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
According to the report by the water resources departmental, Reddy verbally instructed a chief engineer to relax the condition of the tender documents for construction of dams and canals connected with pressurized pump at seven places to make payment of ₹877 to seven private companies in advance without any work being done.
Of the seven, three received the payment even before the design of the irrigation projects was approved by the Bureau of Design, said an officer of the department.
The tenders were allocated between August 2018 and February 2019.
“After this irregularity came to light in December last year, chief secretary Iqbal Singh Bais issued a notice to the officers of the department and asked why the payment was made in advance and why did a chief engineer relax the condition of the tender documents without informing the state government. The chief secretary also asked to cancel the order of advance payment issued in May 2019,” said an officer of the department, who didn’t wish to be named.
“In a reply to notice, then chief engineer Rajeev Suklikar and chief engineer (tender) Shirish Mishra said the department didn’t want to delay the work as a delay can increase the cost of the projects. Suklikar also said that he released the order on the instruction of ACS M Gopal Reddy,” stated a letter of the inquiry report.
When the department checked the progress of the projects till December 2020, it was found that even after two years, three renowned companies, which received the payment of ₹494 crores, had not started any work while two companies had undertaken merely 5 and 10 per cent of the work, respectively. The remaining two companies, however, ha completed 50 per cent of the work.
"After this progress report and reply of the engineers, the department found grave financial irregularities," said SN Mishra, additional chief secretary, WRD.
The Chairman and the director of one of the companies, which got the payment but did not start any work, were arrested by the Enforcement Directorate recently in connection to the e-tendering scam.
Hyderabad-based Mantena Constructions Private Limited's chairman Srinivas Raju, and Bhopal-based associate Aditya Tripathi were arrested by the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in January for paying a bribe to tamper the tender bid after the due date. The e-tendering scam broke in May 2018 but the first FIR was registered in April 2019 when the Congress came to power in the state.
According to the FIR, a middleman hacked and illegally accessed the e-procurement portal and uploaded a changed tender document after the last date of submitting the tender to ensure that some companies would get the work.
In the scam, the ED had also raided Reddy's premises in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. Reddy, after his retirement in September 2020, had moved to Hyderabad. The ED had also called Reddy for registering his statement but he didn’t turn up at the ED office as he was found positive for Covid-19.
Despite repeated attempts, Reddy, Rajeev Suklikar and Shirish Mishra couldn’t be contacted. They did not even respond to text messages.
Water resource minister, Tulsi Silawat, said, “The irregularities have been found in the departmental inquiry and now the EOW will probe the matter.”