`No extra payments were made for UTP canal work'

GULBARGA May 22. The Karnataka Neeravari Nigam (KNN) and the "conglomerate of contractors", which executed the Upper Tunga Project (UTP) canal work from the 11th km. to the 35th km., today denied that payments in addition to the estimated cost of the project, worked out at the time of awarding the tender, were made.

Officials in the KNN and a spokesperson of the conglomerate told The Hindu that the issue of additional financial implication for the project, because of the additional work given, was deliberated by the Board of Directors of the KNN at least on three occasions, and the Advocate General of the State was consulted before payments were cleared.

They said the excavation and construction of the UTP canal from the 11th km. to the 35th km. were awarded in 11 packages by the technical subcommittee in 2000-01. During the course of execution of the project, hard rock excavation with controlled blasting, and soft rock excavation with blasting had to be included in the project. As rates were not available for the work either in the agreement or in the Divisional Schedule of Rate (DSR), a rate of Rs. 364 per cu. m. for hard rock with controlled blasting, and Rs. 119 per cu. m. for soft rock excavation with blasting were prepared and submitted for approval.

Sources in the KNN said that the issue of additional financial implication caused by the additional work was deliberated in detail at the 19th meeting of the technical subcommittee. The committee felt that the increase in cost was unavoidable for the safe and satisfactory execution of the work, and recommended to the Board of Directors of the KNN to approve the rates.However, the Board of Directors of the KNN, at its seventh meeting held in September 2001 under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, decided to seek a review of the technical subcommittee's decision. The committee, after spot inspections, reiterated its stand at its 22nd meeting in October 2001.

An expert committee constituted by the Chief Minister recommended reduction in the rate for hard-rock controlled blasting from Rs. 364 per cu. m. to Rs. 350 per cu. m. The issue was discussed at the 9th board meeting of the KNN in May 2002, and the board referred the matter to the Additional Chief Secretary. In December 2002, the Additional Chief Secretary sought the opinion of the Law Department on whether Clause 13 (c) and 13 (d) of the agreement were applicable.

The Advocate General upheld the technical subcommittee's stand. The issue was once again brought before the Board of Directors of the KNN at its 13th meeting in January 2003, and it was decided to appoint a committee consisting of senior officials to negotiate with the contractors for reducing the rates. A committee brought down the rate from Rs. 364 per cu. m. to Rs. 320 per cu. m.

Both the KNN and the contractors claimed that rules were followed. The response comes in the wake of the strictures passed by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in its recent report about the sanction of Rs. 68.09 crore in addition to the tendered amount of Rs 39.73 crore for the work.

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