Following the detection of rampant irregularities in the preparation and processing of tenders in the sewerage division of the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) at Pattoor, the authority has issued ‘stop' orders for nine tenders worth nearly Rs.30 lakh.

The irregularities were unearthed during a surprise inspection carried out the other day by a team of officials from the KWA's internal vigilance wing. Sources in the KWA who were privy to the vigilance wing's actions told The Hindu that the authority officials who prepared these tenders had violated just about every procedural rule relating to the preparation and processing of tenders.

The tenders that have been stopped now pertain mostly to the cleaning of sewerage lines — bucket cleaning in KWA parlance — in various parts of the city. A couple of tenders reportedly relate to repair work of equipment in the sewerage division.

“Perhaps the most glaring thing that the team found was that none of these tenders had been notified publicly, particularly in the media. Since each of these tenders is only worth Rs.3 lakh or so, they need not be uploaded on the KWA website. The officials, including KWA engineers, who prepared these tenders never let the authority headquarters know that the tenders were never published. The irregularities were clearly not mere administrative oversights but deliberate actions,” a top KWA official told The Hindu.

The vigilance team also found that the tender register in the sewerage division had not been updated. Other office procedures too were not followed. Had the vigilance wing, acting on a tip-off, not raided the sewerage division office, these tenders would have been awarded to the contractors who are on the ‘favourites' list of the sewerage-division officials.

Tip of the iceberg

A KWA employee posted at Pattoor said that the tenders were but the tip of the iceberg of corrupt practices in the sewerage division. “The tenders that have been stopped now are recent affairs. What the vigilance wing should have done was to go into the tender-awarding procedures of the past two or three years. Then they would have realised that a good chunk of the tenders awarded in a year by the sewerage division are done by violating norms and procedures,” the official explained.

The KWA top brass is preparing to issue a show-cause notice to the executive engineer of the sewerage division, it is learnt.