“Efforts of Empowered Committee set up to monitor the works ineffective”

The third report of the Shunglu Committee on “City Infrastructure,” which has been submitted to the Prime Minister and “is being examined,” has severely indicted the Delhi government for its handling of the works and also noted that the efforts of the Empowered Committee, constituted to overlook them, were also “by and large ineffective.”

It said while Rs.254 crore in ‘undue gains' were provided to contractors, Rs. 900 crore could have been saved had delays in planning and execution of projects been avoided.

The Committee, which was mandated to look into allegations of corruption in the Commonwealth Games preparations, has noted that the Delhi government also used this opportunity (conduct of the Games) “to launch projects not connected to its declared objective, in particular street-scaping and street lighting projects.”

It added that “poorly conceived and executed signage project added to cost and caused undue gain to suppliers.”

The high-level committee (HLC) said the ‘undue gains' to contractors in projects scrutinised by it were “attributable to various acts of omission and commission of persons and officers involved in the process.”

“Detailed examination of the projects undertaken by the Delhi government, the New Delhi Municipal Council, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi show that for certain ‘city image' improvement projects (street lighting, street-scaping, signage), the NDMC and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi acted as adjuncts of the Delhi government rather than as independent entities. The Chief Minister took personal interest in the planning and execution of these projects.”

Stating that “while full credit must be given to the Chief Minister for the leadership provided,” the panel said: “She also carries the responsibility for the decisions taken including those relating to ‘city image' improvement projects which cost the city dear.”

Fixing “responsibility for the shortcomings” highlighted in the report on the brass of the Public Works Department, the Delhi government, the NDMC, the MCD and the Delhi Development Authority, the panel has also named some officials. “These include K. K. Sharma, Principal Secretary, PWD; R. Subramanian, then Engineer-in-Chief, PWD; Parimal Rai, Chairman, NDMC; Chief Engineer, NDMC, and officers concerned of MCD and DDA.”

“There may be other officers whose acts of omission and commission have caused loss to the government and undue gain to contractors whose responsibility can be fixed,'' it added.

Stating that it finds it “difficult to straightaway discount the strong public perception that there was a ‘method in the madness' i.e. such unduly long dilly-dallying in deciding on projects was, perhaps, a deliberate attempt at higher levels to create a sense of panic with a view to giving ‘undue advantage' to all concerned,” the HLC said the “cost of delay” was nearly Rs. 900 crore.

“If work on the ‘city infrastructure' projects had commenced even by the year 2007 and the contractor had got a period of 36 months to complete the projects, the government would have made a cumulative savings of Rs.130.60 crore on just the Barapullah Nullah and Ring Road bypass project alone,” it noted.

Holding the Delhi Government squarely responsible for this, the report said: “It delayed the start of the projects, though it was within its power to avoid the delays. It failed to appreciate the grave implications of the delay and ignored the implications of the delays…while giving approval to the projects and accepting the bids of the contractors and their performance.”

The HLC also found major flaws in the tendering process in works related to up-gradation of streetlights; street-scaping; signage and bus queue shelters.

“These flaws restricted competition and in certain cases went against the conditions laid down in the tender documents, thereby, vitiating the entire tendering process. Instances have come to light where none of the bidders protested because it appears they knew that each one of them would get a ‘share of the spoils'!” it observed.

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