Complaint also alleges that a loss of Rs.73.28 lakh was caused to the Exchequer

Delhi Lokayukta Manmohan Sarin on Tuesday issued a notice to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on a complaint alleging that “she has used her position to by-pass regular established instructions for publication and release of outdoor publicity for various departments and organisations under the control of the Delhi Government”. It has also been alleged that a loss of Rs.73.28 lakh was caused to the Exchequer due to by-passing of the rules.

The Lokayukta said in the complaint it was stated by Ashok Kumar, a resident of Rohini, that the Chief Minister by virtue of holding the portfolios of the Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP), the General Administration Department (GAD), Department of Art & Culture (ACL) and the Department of Finance was directly responsible for the decisions taken in these departments and for change of established norms or exceptions.

“The complainant, on the basis of information received through RTI queries as well as the supporting documents filed with the complaint, alleges that undue, special, exceptional favours were granted to M/s. Ved Pohoja & Associates who were not even empanelled with the DIP or with the DAVP,” the Lokayukta said.

The Lokayukta said the complainant had also alleged direct responsibility of the Chief Minister being borne out and supported by the circulars issued by her office mandating prior approval of the Chief Minister to be taken by all departments of the Government of Delhi for advertisements in print, outdoor, television, radio and other media.

“Additionally,” the Lokayukta said, “the complainant has alleged that M/s. VPA were granted a number of contracts under the Bhagidari scheme which is controlled by Bhagidari Cell, which functions as a part of Chief Minister’s Office. These decisions were centralised with the Chief Minister, who is a ‘public functionary’ within the meaning of Sec. 2 (m) of the Delhi Lokayukta & Upalokayukta Act, 1995.”

Going into the specifics of the case, the Lokayukta said: “It is alleged that M/s. VPA were granted contracts as a consultant year after year since 2003 by a tendering process that had been manipulated with only one other agency participating besides M/s. VPA. The other agency as learnt from responses to RTI queries, Vol. I Page-83 of the documents filed, being M/s. Amar Holistic Society for Disabled. As the name suggests, the said Society would hardly have any expertise or qualifications for media consultancy works.”

“It is alleged to have been a sham tendering process to ensure that M/s. VPA remained the sole successful bidder,” he said, adding that the grant of visual publicity works was normally done by DIP under the Delhi Administration Advertisement Rules.

“VPA was neither empanelled with DAVP or DIP, nor did it participate in any open tender for outdoor publicity,” the Lokayukta noted, adding that as per the complaint “the advertisements were issued without retaining the 15 per cent commission which was required to be retained by DIP from the amount paid to advertisement agencies, thereby causing loss to the exchequer. The alleged loss on this account in 2006-07 and 2007-08 was Rs.73.28 lakh. VPA was one of the beneficiaries.”

The complainant had also alleged “exercise of undue discretion by the Chief Minister in favour of VPA, who was granted creative work for bus queue shelters of Delhi Transport Corporation on percentage commission as opposed to the DIP norm of fixed fee.”

It is further alleged that “undue favour was granted to VPA for grant of contracts from institutions like Sahitya Kala Parishad, an organisation under the control of Government of Delhi”.

The Lokayukta said it has also been alleged that “VPA submitted offers through bogus firms such as M/s. Format which have the same address as VPA.”

Stating that “prima facie, a case for inquiry into the allegations of undue favours being granted to M/s. VPA is made out,” Justice Sarin said as per a table prepared by the amicus curiae the total value of contracts awarded to M/s. VPA came to over Rs.6,34 crore.

Noting that amicus curiae Anish Dayal “has done considerable research and analysis of the voluminous documents filed to present in an orderly manner the allegations,” the Lokayukta said a prima facie case for inquiry into the allegations made under Sec. 2(1)(b) of the Act is made out. He thus issued a notice to Ms. Dikshit which is returnable on March 12.

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