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Controversial US firm appointed project consultant for Mumbai’s Versova-Bandra sea link

mumbai Updated: Jan 12, 2018 12:09 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times

The Bandra-Worli sea link. Picture for representation(HT FILE)

The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) recently appointed a US company, Louis Berger, as consultant for the Versova-Bandra Sea Link (VBSL) project, which is a part of the coastal road plan in the city.

The company, which was awarded the Rs-109 crore contract , will carry out a feasibility study, prepare tenders and review construction of the 17.17-km sea link. In July 2015, the US-based firm’s India unit was under scrutiny after senior officials of the company admitted to having bribed ministers to bag consultancy projects in Goa and Assam. The state government had ordered an inquiry into consultancy contracts awarded to the firm in August 2015.

A Louis Berger spokesperson said the company had “self-identified and self-reported improper payments made in 2010” and worked towards transforming it “into one of the most ethical companies in India”.

“We separated the former managers from the company following the results of our early investigations. We have invested more than $25 million over seven years to transform Louis Berger into one of the most ethical companies in India, ranging from bringing in new management aligned with our top ethical culture, new ownership and the establishment of world-class compliance systems, policies and cultural standards. Today, we are a highly ethical company with some of the most stringent internal controls and compliance measures in our industry. We have cooperated fully with Indian authorities, just as we did in the United States,” said the spokesperson.

The firm has also been named as a consultant for a package of the 701-km Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway, which is being executed by the MSRDC. “It has been around a month now that we have awarded the contract to Louis Berger for VBSL. They have started work,” said Kiran Kurundkar, joint managing director of MSRDC.

Louis Berger has served as a consultant for big-ticket infrastructure projects in Mumbai.

A senior MSRDC official, who is involved in the project, added, “There is no issue in awarding contracts as they were never blacklisted... It is the consultant for the third package of the Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway project, and it is the only package to get environmental clearance.”

However, BJP secretary Vivekanand Gupta, who had filed a complaint with a magistrate’s court in Mumbai seeking criminal action against the authorities and Louis Berger, asked, “Despite admitting to paying bribes for projects, why are contracts being awarded to the firm?”

The Rs7,502-crore sea link, which is a part of the coastal road plan, will connect south Mumbai to the western suburbs.  The work will start from April 2018. MSRDC officials believe that by late 2021 the sea link will be built.

First Published: Jan 12, 2018 09:38 IST