Graft in allotment of advertisement hoardings alleged

The Thrissur Vigilance Court on Tuesday ordered a probe against Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany and four others in connection with the alleged corruption involved in placing advertisement hoardings on the streetlight poles in the corporation limits.

Considering a petition filed by the All India Youth Federation Ernakulam district secretary T.C. Sanjith, the Vigilance Special Judge V. Bhaskaran ordered the investigation against Mr. Chammany, K.J. Sohan, chairman of the Town Planning Standing Committee, Ajith B. Patil, Corporation Secretary, K.S. Subhash, former Town Planning officer and K.B. Raghuvaran, owner of N.M. Enterprises, which bagged the deal.

The complainant pointed out that the corporation suffered a loss of Rs 1.14 crore due to irregularities in the deal, which was signed in violation of the rules.

A deal was signed between the civic body and the agency on September 23, 2011 to display advertisements on 1,702 lampposts for six months. The agency also had to pay a monthly rent of Rs. 8.50 lakh.

However, it paid only Rs. 8.42 lakh as rent and continued to display the advertisements for about one year, said the complainant.

K.J. Jacob, leader of the CPI (M) in the Kochi Corporation council, demanded the resignation of Mr. Chammany and Mr. Sohan following the developments. The opposition had pointed out in the council that the civic body sustained a loss of Rs. 1.11 crore in the deal.

The issue of non-removal of boards even after the expiry of the agreement period and non-payment of rent should also be probed, he said.

Responding to the developments, Mr. Chammany said that he would fight it out in court.

The officials of the corporation were to be blamed for the loss. Action should be taken against those who were responsible for causing loss to the civic body, he said.

K.J. Sohan said that the political leadership of the Corporation had nothing to do with the alleged deal. It was the duty of the officials to ensure that a proper agreement for allotting lampposts for display of advertisements was signed, he said.

The Finance and Town Planning Standing Committees of the Corporation consisting of the members of both the ruling front and the opposition, which probed into the issue had found fault with two Corporation officials and disciplinary action was taken against them.

The Corporation council too had decided on Monday to go in for a probe by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau, he said.

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