Kerala

VACB moves closer to indicting Kunju for graft

V.K. Ebrahim Kunju

V.K. Ebrahim Kunju  

Probe into Palarivattom flyover case

The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) on Saturday appeared to have moved one more step closer to indicting former Public Works Minister and IUML legislator V.K. Ebrahim Kunju for graft.

The agency is investigating Mr. Kunju on the charge of using public funds to aid the private firm responsible for the shoddy construction of the now decommissioned flyover at Palarivattom in Kochi.

Mr. Kunju, mobbed by television camera persons, arrived at the VACB facility here at 11 a.m. He spent the next three hours attempting to answer questions posed by anti-corruption investigators. By some official accounts, Mr. Kunju’s answers revolved around the argument that as Minister it was not his responsibility to monitor the quality of the work at the field level.

Onus on officials

Moreover, Mr. Kunju reportedly said PWD officials were principally responsible for finalising the contract, setting the terms of the agreement, monitoring the execution of the work and sanctioning bills presented by the builder.

The VACB interviewed Mr. Kunju as per a rigid format finalised earlier by a panel of investigators.

The agency’s queries to Mr. Kunju reportedly centred around the finding that he had ordered the release of ₹9 crore in advance to the contractor as “mobilisation fund” at a nominal rate of interest much less than that charged by nationalised banks.

The VACB wanted to find out why Mr. Kunju had sanctioned the payment and whether he had acted outside the terms of the government’s agreement with the builder. The advance credit to the contractor on brazenly advantageous terms had cost the public exchequer an estimated loss of ₹60 lakh. Mr. Kunju reportedly sought to defend himself by stating that PWD officials were responsible for the decisions. An official said that Mr. Kunju appeared to be in some measure of legal peril for allowing the State to channel public funds to aid a private entity contracted to execute a civil work.

It is tantamount to according the builder an undue financial advantage. The questioning will continue.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 12:54:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/vacb-moves-closer-to-indicting-kunju-for-graft/article30830787.ece

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