How Bharathidasan University constructed an auditorium without electrical fittings, seating arrangement

Audit exposes significant compromise in quality of work at escalated cost of ₹4.94 crore

Updated - November 17, 2023 11:54 am IST

Published - November 16, 2023 12:57 am IST

A view of the Bharathidasan University in Tiruchi. File

A view of the Bharathidasan University in Tiruchi. File | Photo Credit: B. Velankanni Raj

Bharathidasan University in Tiruchi spent ₹4.94 crore on the construction of its Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Career Hub (EICH) building and auditorium, which did not even have basic electrical fittings and seating arrangements.

A physical verification showed that “cracks have developed near the joints of the building even before the installation of the building”, an audit report of the Office of the Principal Accountant-General (Audit-I), Tamil Nadu, has pointed out.

An audit report revealed that the Bharathidasan University in Tiruchi made serious compromises in the quality of construction.

An audit report revealed that the Bharathidasan University in Tiruchi made serious compromises in the quality of construction. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The report, dated September 26, 2023, reveals that the university made serious compromises in the quality of construction. In January 2020, the university syndicate decided to construct the EICH building at an estimated cost of ₹4 crore, as approved by the building committee. The Chief Engineer, Technical Education Circle, Public Works Department (PWD), Chennai, subsequently accorded technical sanction.

Subsequently, the university Registrar requested the PWD for estimates of ₹94 lakh to carry out additional work like acoustic wall panelling, seating and audiovisual arrangements, and ductless air conditioning. The PWD preferred an estimate for ₹2 crore to execute the additional work. On negotiation, this was reduced to ₹94 lakh.

“To enable this reduction, the university had to compromise on the removal of the acoustic wall panelling, audiovisual arrangements and cushion-seating arrangements for the auditorium. False ceiling arrangement was made only with plain gypsum boards instead of the original acoustic wall panelling. Seating arrangement was reduced to 10 plastic chairs and one three-seater sofa from the original 310 plastic armchairs. Audiovisual arrangement was removed from the estimates,” the report said.

“No electrical fittings, like fans and lights, have been provided in the auditorium. No seating arrangement has been provided till date,” it said.

Besides, rainwater-harvesting pipes all around the building were not connected to any rainwater-harvesting pit. There was also no staircase or provision to climb to the roof or inspect the water tank. There was also no provision for toilets or access for the differently abled persons to the stage.

“Despite incurring an escalated expenditure of ₹4.94 crore, the building is yet to be completed and handed over to the university. Moreover, compromises in the requirements of the university had to be made and a revised estimate had to be prepared,” the report noted.

Besides, the university had said it renovated an animal house at a cost of ₹32.5 lakh. However, in reality, it constructed a new building without approval from the funding authority. But lapses were noticed. “Even though the work was stated to have been completed, it was observed on physical inspection that the entire new building was infested with termites... This would result in the entire building getting damaged and construction being carried out again,” the report said.

The audit agency has sought a reply from the university to these discrepancies.

University Vice-Chancellor M. Selvam told The Hindu that the building was partially functional in the past week, with only the auditorium remaining closed. “We are working closely with the PWD team to solve the issues one by one,” he said.

A PWD engineer associated with the project said a request from the university midway to increase the ceiling height by one metre caused budgetary and design problems, which led to the downsizing of some planned features to the tune of ₹50 lakh. “This was also why the cushioned seating was downgraded. At every point, over six to seven months of discussions, the changes were made in writing and approved by the higher authorities,” the engineer said.

According to the engineer, rainwater harvesting, stairs for the roof and access to the water tank were not included in the original estimate, but the PWD chalked it in after the audit report, and would be adding them soon.

The animal house, meant to keep animals used in laboratory experiments, is an extension of an existing building. “The absence of pavements around the new structure and the bushes behind it may have made it easier for termite infestation. We have begun pest-control measures and will rectify the issue soon,” the engineer said.

(With inputs from Nahla Nainar in Tiruchi)

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