DSS questions CM’s silence over Rs. 600-crore PWD scam

More than a year after the Rs. 600-crore PWD scam in Magadi subdivision came to light, action is yet to be initiated against the alleged culprits, the Karnataka State Yuva Dalit Sangharsha Samiti said on Wednesday. It has sought a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the scam.

While Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had raised the issue in the Belgaum session last year when he was Leader of Opposition, no action had been initiated against the culprits, the samiti alleged. The samiti said that Mr. Siddaramaiah, who had sought a probe by the House committee, has not acted on the recommendations of the House committee that had been constituted. “Why is the Chief Minister silent on the issue when the scam involves crores of rupees?” the samiti asked.

A source in PWD said that the Superintendent Engineer, who has been named in the FIR filed by the Lokayukta, continues to serve in the department and the Executive Engineer, who was suspended, has retired. While three junior engineers have been suspended, action had not been initiated against three assistant engineers. In total, 15 persons, including engineers and contractors, have been named in the FIR.

Scam

So much so, the Magadi PWD scam has been billed as the “biggest scam ever reported in the State” by a House committee.

The scam, between 2009 and 2012, involved splitting work orders to less than Rs. 20 lakh to escape from the provisions of the Karnataka Transparency Act that entails e-tendering process for works above Rs. 20 lakh.

The officials involved spilt the work to Rs. 19.9 lakh each, which, under the provision, could be manually tendered. Newspaper advertisement calling for tender was published in newspapers in Hubli and Dharwad editions to prevent competition locally.

Most of the 831 works that were alleged to have been executed after splitting work orders were given to three contractors — Kemparaju, Shankar and Nanjaiah. Of the total, only 246 works had been approved. Payments had been made to contractors for works that lacked quality or in some instances payments were made for works that were not executed.

The seven-member House committee headed by Appasaheb Mallappa Pattanashetti, which probed the scam, blamed the Public Works Department officials for not adhering to the department code in selection, allocation and approval of works, which had been split deliberately. While recommending action against the officials involved, the committee had suggested recovery of money that had been paid out to contractors.

The committee observed that while sub divisions having between 350 and 450 km road network received about Rs. 20 crore to Rs. 25 crore as annual grant, Magadi subdivision with just 275 km received Rs. 259.30 crore in a year.

Principal Secretary, PWD, E. Venkataiah was not available for comments.

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