Punjab irrigation scam | Nine contracts, Rs 1,000-cr profit: How 1 contractor raked in moolah
Magnitude of the scandal involving senior bureaucrats, top officials of irrigation department and accused contractor Gurinder Singh has left even vigilance bureau stunnedpunjab Updated: Oct 09, 2017 12:42 IST
The magnitude of the irrigation scam involving senior bureaucrats, top officials of the department and contractor Gurinder Singh has left even the state investigating agency vigilance bureau (VB) stunned.
As per the investigations till now, Gurinder — kingpin of the scam — was favoured to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore in only seven contracts the VB has investigated till date. He had many more projects from the department, which are yet to probed.
- Senior officials of the irrigation department used to draft tailor-made and inflated tenders as per the contractor suitability
- KINGPIN: Contractor Gurinder
- ACCUSED OFFICIALS: XEN Gulshan Nagpal; chief engineer (retd) Paramjit Singh Ghuman; XEN Bajrang Lal Singla, chief engineer (retd) Harvinder Singh, SDO (retd) Kaminder Singh Deol, chief engineer (retd) Gurdev Singh Sian and supervisor Vimal Kumar Sharma
- FAVOURS GRANTED: Gurinder was awarded contracts of drainage repair worth over Rs 3,000 crore between 2010 and 2016
The sealed copy of the probe so far has been handed over to the Punjab and Haryana high court through an affidavit to challenge the bail pleas of the accused, which will come up for hearing on Monday.
An FIR in the case was registered at the vigilance police station, Mohali, on August 19, in which the bureau has booked contractor Gurinder ; Gulshan Nagpal, executive engineer (XEN); Paramjit Singh Ghuman, chief engineer (retired); Bajrang Lal Singla, XEN; Harvinder Singh, chief engineer (retired); Kaminder Singh Deol, SDO (retired); Gurdev Singh Sian, chief engineer (retired); and Vimal Kumar Sharma, supervisor. All the accused are on run.
As per the VB affidavit, the copy of which is with HT, senior officials of the department used to draft the tender as per Gurinder’s suitability and he was awarded contracts of repair of drainages worth over Rs 3000 crore in six years between 2016 and 2017.
The VB recovered emails and call records of Gurinder and the accused officials which prove that sensitive secret information regarding tenders was shared with Gurinder.
“In many cases, aides of Gurinder were found drafting terms and conditions of contracts for major works which were sent to the accused officials on their emails and shockingly were made part of the final tender conditions issued in DNIT (detailed notice inviting tender),” reads the VB report containing a summary of email exchanges.
Senior officials of the department used to draft the tender as per Gurinder’s suitability and he was awarded contracts of repair of drainages worth over Rs 3000 crore in six years between 2016 and 2017.
One such email exchanged on September 23, 2014, between GS Bains, an aide of Gurinder, and accused XEN Gulshan Nagpal, carried a draft of the tender conditions which were then approved by the chief engineer and floated as part of the final terms and conditions of the tender. In few cases, a tender was drafted in such a manner that only Gurinder was left as the single bidder.
In another favour to Gurinder, the VB has also found accused officials to be falsely certifying the rates of the material in the estimatse submitted for a particular work.
“Gurinder not only used to give tailor-made tenders, but was also dictated the terms of such tenders to suit himself,” reads the affidavit submittec by additional inspector general (AIG) VB, Ashish Kapoor.
LOOT AMID NO COMPETITION
In six years between 2010 and 2016, Gurinder had little or no competition in these tenders resulting into a scenario wherein Gurinder was the only eligible single bidder for more than 19 tenders worth Rs 1,500 crore. In many cases, the officials falsely certified his rates as the lowest which were actually twice the market rates.
A major portion of one such tender worth Rs 115 crore (initial cost 75 crore) for constructing a sub-surface drainage system in southern western Punjab was for the purchase of PVC pipes and associated fittings and filter materials.
As per the revised estimates, the total length of pipes (as well as the fittings and filter material to be wrapped around such pipes) was 650 km in total. For these, XEN Gulshan Nagpal took quotations from different vendors to find out a lowest market price for these items and these were approved by chief engineer (drainage) Gurdev Singh Sian and Bajrang Lal Singla (XEN headquarters) and presented to the chief engineer for the final decision after certifying these rates being the lowest.
Investigations have revealed that such certification and quotations were based on false quotes when, in fact, the rates quoted by Gurinder and approved as the lowest were two to and-a-half times higher than market rates.
Thus, the estimate was inflated by at least 20% over the actual value and a huge loss was caused to state to the tune of approximately Rs 17 crore on account of prices of pipes to be purchased.
With the help of his co-accused officials of the irrigation department, Gurinder bagged majority of the works of the ‘drainage’ and ‘kandi canal’ wings at highly inflated rates. Almost 60% (in terms of cost) of the total works worth Rs 620 crore of drainage wing between 2010 and 2016 were allotted to Gurinder. Around 85% of the works worth Rs 360 crore of the Kandi wing between 2010 and 2016 were also bagged by him.
“Since the actual cost itself was way less than the estimates, the contractor was able to straightaway make a higher profit out of WORK, in the range of 40-50%,” said the affidavit.
CM’S VERBAL ORDERS TWISTED
The VB says the accused officials, in connivance with Gurinder, misused proceedings of meetings of 2012, chaired by the then irrigation minister, wherein it was stated that as per oral orders of the chief minister, only big tenders are to be called.
The CM’s orders were deliberately misinterpreted by the accused officials and tenders ranging between Rs 5 crore and Rs 75 crore were floated, with the majority of them being allotted to Gurinder. In certain cases, small value, different nature, far-flung works used to be clubbed together in order to create one big tender so as to reduce competition.
In such cases, works across districts, of different types, of different drains, of different divisions used to be clubbed.
CONTRACTOR’S NEXUS WITH POLITICIANS, BUREAUCRATS
The mastermind and the main beneficiary in this case, contractor Gurinder was close to senior Akali leaders and bureaucrats. He is said to be a hidden partner in a business with son of a senior bureaucrat from Punjab.
He remained so influential that a number of documents which were supposed to be in the custody of irrigation department have been recovered from his residence during raids by VB.
Even letters written by the VB to the department seeking the record of works related to this scam have been found from his residence during the raids.
Since April 2017 when the Vigilance Bureau started looking into irregularities committed by Gurinder, there has been a heavy cash withdrawal from his bank accounts. A sum of Rs 61.05 crore was withdrawn since April, 2017. Moreover, over Rs 250 crore was used in non-business transactions during this period.
Gurinder’s income tax return also had a phenomenal increase from Rs 3 crore in 2010 to Rs 350 crore in 2016.