Punjab Vigilance registers case in irrigation scam

Chandigarh August 18 (PunjabUpdate.Com)-With a view to probe irregularities in allotment of tenders in the irrigation department, the Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) has registered a criminal case against Gurinder Singh contractor and four senior officers of the department including two retirees. The VB teams have conducted searches at various places for investigation purposes as the contractor have amassed huge wealth and acquired more than 30 properties worth Rs. 100 crores illegally in Chandigarh, Mohali, Ludhiana, Patiala and Noida.

Disclosing this here today a spokesperson of state VB said that in this case Gulshan Nagpal, XEN; Paramjit Singh Ghuman, Chief Engineer (Retd.); Bajrang Lal Singla, XEN; Harvinder Singh, Chief Engineer (Retd.); Kaminder Singh Deol, SDO (Retd.); Gurdev Singh Minah, Chief Engineer (Redt.); Vimal Kumar Sharma, Supervisor and some other Officers/Engineers/Officials of Irrigation department, Punjab Govt. have been found to have misused their official positions in criminal conspiracy with Gurinder Singh, Contractor for causing defalcation of Govt. funds and for causing huge financial loss to the State Govt.

He said a case FIR No. 10 dated 17.8.2017 under sections 13(1) d r/w 13(2) PC Act – 1988 and 406, 420, 467, 468, 471, 477-A and 120-B of IPC has been registered at Police Station – Vigilance Bureau, Flying Squad-I, S.A.S.Nagar (Mohali) against Gurinder Singh, Contractor and above mentioned officers/officials of Irrigation department.

He further said that role of Pushpinder Garg, Chief Engineer, Canals, who is also Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of Irrigation department and who had filed complaints received against Gurinder Singh, Contractor without looking into the allegations thoroughly in connivance with him, would also be looked into during investigation. Similarly, role of other Contractors, Pushpinder Singh Sidhu and Khara Contractors, who had submitted false tenders in connivance with Gurinder Singh, Contractor would also be probed during investigation of the case.

Giving more details the spokesperson said a vigilance enquiry no. 15 dated 30.6.2017, Chandigarh was registered by the Vigilance Bureau to look into the allegations of illegal allotment of multi crore projects of Irrigation department to a few favoured contractors by giving them extra leverage by ignoring prescribed conditions and providing tailor made conditions, by flouting all rules/regulations and causing loss to the tune of hundreds of crores to the State Exchequer by certain senior technocrats of Irrigation department.

During the course of enquiry, it has been found that in the last 7-8 years, senior officers of Punjab Government and Irrigation department have misused their official positions and in connivance with M/s Gurinder Singh, Contractor, have caused huge loss to the State by twisting rules/ regulations, not adhering to the prescribed procedure for e-tendering, by making tailor made terms and conditions for e-tendering to benefit a particular Contractor, by clubbing minor works to make them major works, by leaking official secrecy to the Contractor (Gurinder Singh) in the development works worth Rs. 1000 crores which were allotted to Contractor at rates which were 10-50% higher as compared  to  the  departmental  rates. He added that terms & conditions for e-tendering were tailor made so as to eliminate other bidders and to allot the work to Gurinder Singh, Contractor. Many tenders were allotted to the said Contractor on the basis of single bids and he charged rates which were excessive and inflated. He said that VB have also found that during this period, many works which were costing below Rs. 2.00 crores and were allotted to other eligible Contractors who were successful in tenders, were much cheaper than the rates fixed by Irrigation department.

The spokesperson further informed that it has been found during the preliminary probe that Irrigation officers, while publishing tenders, were not specifically mentioning the place of work, the time period and necessary technical specifications in the D.N.I.T. Due to absence of this information, other Contractors were unable to offer bids but this information was usually provided to Gurinder Singh, Contractor, internally, so as to ensure allotment of work job to him.

It was also noticed that during the year 2006-07, annual turnover of said the Contractor was only Rs. 4.74 crores and it swelled to approx. 300 crores during the year 2016-17. He added that the officers of Irrigation department also compromised with the quality and quantity of material in the works of said Contractor to get more commission/illegal gratification.

During the course of enquiry, Vigilance Bureau has found connivance of Irrigation Engineers and Contractor to cause loss of hundred of crores to State exchequer and has asked the Irrigation department to provide records pertaining to Drainage and Kandi projects executed during the last 7-8 years for a deeper probe, but all the requisite records have not been provided to Vigilance Bureau by the department.

He further added that reliable sources have informed that 13th Finance Commission had allotted funds amounting to Rs. 180 crores upto 2012-15, Central Govt. had allocated funds for irrigation projects to address water-logging in Southern and Western Punjab amounting to Rs. 440 crores upto the year 2013-16 and there were many other allotments by Central worth hundreds of crores. He said most of the tenders for execution of works of above mentioned schemes were irregularly allotted to the said Contractor by accused Irrigation department officers at 10% higher rate of CSR + SP, whereas some works were found to be allotted to the other Contractors at par CSR + SP or less than this which establishes connivance in this regard.

The spokesperson further said that during the year 2011-12, work regarding re-sectioning of Abul Khurana drain was allotted to the same Contractor by Gulshan Nagpal, XEN by flouting rules/regulations and twisting the conditions of tenders. In addition to this such irregularities were committed and many minor works were clubbed to enhance the cost to 39.86 crores and the officers have ignored laid down instructions for vested interest.

He revealed that in many tenders, dates of tenders were fixed in such a manner to show that it is emergent in nature and were allotted wrongly to the said favoured Contractor. It was also found that estimates of works of drainage were not got vetted from the Technical Advisor to Chief Minister Punjab, and exemptions for this ware obtained by submitting wrong facts. During the probe it was found that rates charged by the said Contractor for works allotted to him were more than the rates prescribed by the department whereas rates charged by other Contractors have been found to be 20% to 30% less than rates of said Contractor (Gurinder Singh). It shows that excess amount charged was pocketed by the accused Irrigation officers. Even the engineers of Irrigation department have not complied with the decisions taken in the meetings chaired by the ministers, he added.

Briefing glaring irregularities he added that during the year 2012, a bridge was constructed on Sutlej Creek. As per CVC instructions, prescribed time for tenders is minimum 14 days but in this case only 4 days time was given for tenders which was irregularly allotted to Contractor (Gurinder Singh) at higher rates. He added that in many tenders, difference in rates offered by Gurinder Singh Contractor and the next lowest bidder was of Rs. 01/- only, which proves that officers of Irrigation department favored the said Contractor by disclosing him the lowest bid received.

The spokesperson said that as per the instructions of Centre, works to be executed under State Disaster Relief Funds, have to be paid at par with CSR rates. But in this case to favour Gurinder Singh Contractor, such works have been allotted to him by Irrigation department at more than CSR rates, due to which huge financial loss has been caused to State exchequer.

During January 2017, just before imposition of election code of conduct, two major works were allotted to Gurinder Singh, Contractor on agreement bases by deleting some important clauses in gross violation of rules/regulations. It has also came to notice that transfers/postings of senior officers in the department were being ordered at the behest of Gurinder Singh, Contractor.

He informed that to weed out the corrupt practices the role of concerned senior bureaucrats of Punjab, who were heading the department at that time, would also be probed thoroughly during the investigation of the case.

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