KERALA

Works for Rs.480 crore awarded without bid

N.J. Nair

In 16 road divisions in the State during the past three years

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Public Works Department is understood to have awarded 8,320 civil works for Rs.480 crore waiving tender proceedings in 16 road divisions across the State during the past three years.

Official sources told The Hindu on Saturday that a preliminary inquiry conducted by the Government on the basis of complaints on awarding works between 2004 and 2006 without floating tenders had detected that the clearance was given at the highest level, allegedly ignoring the opinion of supervisory officials of the department at various levels. The Accountant-General too had begun an inquiry into the irregularities in awarding works during the period.

The works taken up during the period, mainly laying of roads, construction and maintenance of bridges and culverts, include those in both Plan and non-Plan category. As many as 120 Plan works for Rs.350 crore were sanctioned. Plan works are new civil works initiated by the department every year. Similarly, 8,200 works in the non-Plan category for Rs.130 crore were awarded ignoring all statutory proceedings. Non-Plan works are mainly maintenance and repair works executed by the department annually. The total loss had been put at Rs.65 crore Rs.50 crore in the Plan category and Rs.15 crore in the non-Plan category. This was feared to go up to Rs.150 crore. By waiving tender formalities, the Government lost Rs.60 lakh as tender fee and Rs.1 crore as security deposit from the contractors. Rules have it that the contractors should deposit 10 per cent of the estimated cost of the works awarded as security deposit. All such norms had been flouted by the department, sources said.

It had been detected that no proper agreements had been made while sanctioning the works to select contractors. A lion's share of the works was awarded without securing a bank guarantee or security deposit. Hence, recovering the loss from those who had taken the works would not be an easy task, sources said.

Doubts had been raised about the genuineness of the works allotted in the non-Plan category. For, there were complaints that most of them had not been executed and the amounts were allegedly drawn by the contractors in collusion with a section of the department officials. Physical verification of such works like repairs and maintenance of roads and bridges was not easy too.