Former TDB member denies charges

Former Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) member Ajay Tharayil has said the civil and computerisation works of the board were awarded by the last board complying with all the relevant rules and regulations.

Referring to a report that appeared in these columns on November 25 with the headline ‘Financial fraud detected in TDB’, Mr. Tharayil told The Hindu that the allegations of irregularities were baseless and unfounded.

Funds were released for the civil works as envisaged in the budget of the board and directives of the ombudsman and the Kerala High Court. It was also revealed that the tender for computerisation was allotted to a joint bid involving Keltron, a State public sector undertaking, and the Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society (ULCCS), a total service provider to the Kerala government, he said, citing the relevant documents.

The documents show that nearly 95% of the funds spent during 2016-17 pertained to the payments that were to be made during 2014-15 and 2015-16. All the payments were made by the TDB in strict accordance with the budgetary provisions. The budget and related documents were also submitted to both internal and external audit, he said.

Based on tender

On the computerisation of the offices and temples of the board, Mr. Tharayil said the work was awarded based on an open tender. Although 13 agencies had participated in the pre-bid meeting, only the joint bid involving Keltron and the ULCCS remained in the bidding process at the end. The work was, therefore, awarded to the Keltron-ULCCS combine.

Both Keltron and the ULCCS are approved total service providers to the State government and work can be awarded to them even without floating tenders. The agreement for the computerisation work was signed between the Keltron Managing Director and the Devaswom Commissioner, Mr. Tharayil pointed out.

On the allegation that he and the former TDB president had claimed excessive travel allowance, Mr. Tharayil pointed out that the High Court of Kerala had fixed a monthly ceiling of ₹47,487.50 for travel allowance that each member could claim. No travel bills beyond the upper limit could be claimed. There is no ceiling on the travel allowances that could be claimed for journeys to Sabarimala. The board president and members are also eligible for a ‘halting’ allowance, as clarified in the orders issued by the Kerala High Court and the board, he said.

The board has allotted only the vehicles and drivers for the members and the fuel bill has to be borne by them. The board members are also not covered by the logbook system, which is applicable only to the board officials, he clarified.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 6:56:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/former-tdb-member-denies-charges/article22402087.ece

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