‘Public Works Minister and his son are the beneficiaries’

The Rs. 650-crore roadworks scam in Magadi taluk of Ramnagaram district that surfaced following the efforts of an RTI activist, appears larger than it initially seemed.

A day after a House Committee was set up to probe into the alleged irregularities, RTI activist Dinesh Kallahalli addressed a press conference here on Tuesday claiming that the scam is not merely restricted to Magadi taluk.

Alleging that the scam in roadworks ran up to Rs. 10,000 crore (the amount sanctioned for road laying works in the last three budgets), Mr. Kalahalli said that it has occurred across the State over the last three years.

“The principal beneficiaries of the scam have been [Public Works Minister] C.M. Udasi and his son Shivakumar C. Udasi [Lok Sabha member],” Mr. Kalahalli alleged.

He alleged that the ill-gotten wealth was invested by the Udasis into the Rasi group of companies owned by them.

He produced documents showing that in the last three years each one of the sanctioned projects was intentionally kept at less than Rs. 20 lakh to duck the e-procurement mandate.

“e-procurement becomes mandatory for projects worth more than Rs. 20 lakh. By keeping the individual projects at less than Rs. 20 lakh, they could go in for manual tendering by placing advertisements in newspapers,” he said while producing a list of the advertisements.

The advertisements, produced by Mr. Kalahalli, showed that tender notices for projects in south Karnataka had been put up in newspapers in North Karnataka.

“This was done to prevent competitive bidding by contractors. Instead, those contractors who were close to the Minister and his son were the ones who submitted their quotations and were awarded the projects,” he said.

“Although I have not conducted a comprehensive study, the same pattern of tendering was followed in different parts of the State,” Mr. Kalahalli said.

Another interesting facet of Mr. Kalahalli’s RTI-based investigation is multiple sanctions for the same road.

He explained, “Let us assume a road laying project has been sanctioned between Anil Kumble Circle and Cubbon Park entrance. The scamsters would make another entry saying ‘road laying work between LIC building and Queen’s Statue’. It is the same stretch of road but entered twice in two different names.” He has called for a CBI inquiry into the scam.