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Warring depts stall Lokayukta probe

DEPARTMENTAL BUCK passing has stalled a Lokayukta inquiry into alleged irregularities in purchase of electrical equipment worth Rs 2.63 crore for slum areas by the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) in 1999.

india Updated: May 29, 2006 20:05 IST
SAEED Khan

DEPARTMENTAL BUCK passing has stalled a Lokayukta inquiry into alleged irregularities in purchase of electrical equipment worth Rs 2.63 crore for slum areas by the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) in 1999.

The Corporation is accused of displaying undue haste in the purchase, procuring equipment without inviting tenders, using Rs 50.40 lakh received under a different head to pay for the electrical goods and overpaying suppliers to the tune of Rs 5.17 lakh.

The Lokayukta is investigating the role of then Mayor Madhukar Verma and 10 IMC officials, including former Municipal Commissioner and present Bhopal Collector Sanjay Shukla, involved in the purchase.

The probe, however, has slowed to a snail’s pace owing to squabbling between the IMC Waterworks and Drainage and Electrical departments who claim it is the other’s job to provide the required information.

Waterworks officials justify their stand by asserting that the Electrical department must answer the queries as the inquiry pertains to purchase of electrical equipment.

IMC Electrical engineers, however, counter by saying that as the items were purchased by the Waterworks department they should be made to answer for the irregularities (There was no separate Electrical department at the time the scam took place). Further, they argue, the Waterworks department has already set a precedent by answering two sets of queries vide letter nos 3429 and 3431 and this arrangement should not be discontinued.

The last Lokayukta missive seeking scam details has been hanging fore for over a month as a result of the standoff. Even Municipal Commissioner Vinod Sharma’s intervention has failed to break the deadlock.

The IMC had purchased electrical equipment amounting to Rs 2.63 crore from Crompton Greaves in November 1999 for lighting up low-income areas under the National Slum Improvement Project.

Payments amounting to Rs 2,63,62,404 were made to four registered Crompton Greaves dealers M/s Chinar Commerce Pvt Ltd (Rs 57,21,507), M/s Arihant Traders, Indoe (Rs (86,42,038), M/s Rajat Sales Corporation, Indore (Rs 84,13, 068) and M/s Sandeep

Trading Corporation, Indore (Rs 35,85,797) for the equipment. The procurement, however, raised a storm from the Opposition BJP, which protested the undue haste and lack of tenders in the purchase process.
The Congress reacted by declaring that equipment was purchased at rates prevalent in the market.

It justified the purchase from the open market by pointing out that the one-year deadline for purchasing goods from firms approved by the Directorate, Urban Administration and Development, had lapsed.

Even as the debate was raging information surfaced that the Corporation had appended Rs 50,40,000 received from the State Finance Commission to the Rs 2,25,80,000 slum project corpus.

Of the total payments for electrical goods, it now transpired, only Rs 1,36,65,641 came from slum project funds with additional monies amounting to Rs 1,52,96,571 coming from the State Finance Commission grants.

This was followed by another shocking revelation; the IMC Accounts department had “mistakenly” overpaid a supplier Rs 5.17 lakh. This proved to be the last straw and a complaint was filed in the Lokayukta which filed a case against then Mayor Madhukar Verma.

An inquiry was launched to probe the role of Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Shukla, Chief Engineer RK Singh Kushwaha and Superintending Engineer GR Dube, both of whom have since retired, as well as seven others.

QUOTE:
City Engineer (Waterworks and Drainage) GP Pathak: There will be no further delay henceforth. The Commissioner has ordered Electrical department HOD to answer all queries related to the Lokayukta probe.

First Published: May 29, 2006 20:05 IST