The State government has banned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an international consultancy, from participating in projects promoted by the Electronics and IT Department for the next two years.
The government found that PwC “did not perform a comprehensive background check, including vetting education qualification while appointing an individual (UAE gold smuggling case suspect Swapna Suresh) in the project management unit of the Space Park.”
The Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITL) had appointed PwC as a consultant for the Space Park project.
As per the terms of the contract, the “entire responsibility to satisfy the credentials and integrity of resources persons in Space Park lay upon M/s PwC.”
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had on November 9 chaired a meeting to discuss the prospect of future engagement with PwC in State government projects.
Breach of contract
The meeting concluded that PwC had not shown due diligence in the controversial appointment and hence committed a “serious breach of contractual obligation”.
The government has also removed PwC as a project consultant for the Kerala Fibre Optic Network.
The government had drawn flak from the Opposition after a preliminary police inquiry purportedly revealed that Swapna had faked her academic qualification to gain employment as operations manager/junior consultant in Space Park.
A panel headed by Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta had indicated that Swapna’s employment in Space Park smacked of favouritism.
The committee had found that the former Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, M. Sivasankar, had “referred to appoint a person (Swapna) who was working as secretary to the Consul General, UAE.”
The panel also frowned upon Mr. Sivasankar’s allegedly unauthorised “frequent contacts with a foreign consulate official”.
Officials said the decision to remove PwC as a consultant to the government’s mega project portended an anti-corruption inquiry into Swapna’s controversial appointment in the Space Park.
The inquiry would focus on the suspected role of Mr. Sivasankar, PwC officials and KSITL top brass in Swapna’s appointment that cost the treasury an estimated ₹20 lakh in terms of salary.