Kerala

VACB to seek records in Palarivattom flyover graft

Agency debunks reports that ‘Ministerial note files’ are missing

The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) is set to subpoena government records pertaining to the ‘tawdry’ construction of the recently decommissioned flyover at Palarivattom in Kochi.

A senior official said the agency would seek records related to the award of the contract from the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Secretariat.

The probe is also focussed on the contentious decision of the United Democratic Front (UDF) government to award an advance payment of ₹9 crore to the construction firm at an interest rate much less than that charged by banks.

Meanwhile, the VACB has debunked as baseless television news reports that the agency had found the ‘Ministerial note files’ relating to the case gone from the PWD and the Secretariat.

The speculative reports about the ‘disappeared files’ had surfaced on a day when rumours abounded that the agency was on the cusp of arraigning former PWD Minister and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader V.K. Ebrahim Kunju, MLA, as an accused in the case.

The VACB aims to find out if there was any intention or knowledge of wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Kunju in advancing low interest loans to the private firm contracted to build the overbridge.

The agency would factor in the constitutionally guaranteed powers of the Minister before it takes a call on his innocence or guilt.

“The case hinges chiefly and perhaps solely on documentary evidence on government files, which are all intact and preserved. None of the relevant files is missing,” a senior official said.

The agency is probing whether PWD officials had accorded illegal financial advantage to the company by fast-forwarding the payment of part bills, allegedly overlooking cautionary reports from whistleblowers about the shoddy nature of the construction.

The VACB is also scrutinising the role of top officials of the Roads and Bridges Corporation; the State agency tasked to implement the project and also other officials of KITCO, a State-run consultancy, in the alleged corruption case.

It is also tracking the money trail in the case to find out whether officials under a cloud of suspicion had amassed wealth or properties beyond their known sources of income.

It has already arrested the then PWD Secretary T.O. Sooraj and three others, including the builder on corruption charges relating to the case.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 12:52:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/vacb-to-seek-records-in-palarivattom-flyover-graft/article29692867.ece

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