All tainted VIDC tenders were okayed by Ajit Pawar
NAGPUR: Even as Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) officials are facing a departmental inquiry, their colleagues have pointed out that all the alleged irregularities committed by them got final approval from the then deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. Specific orders were in force that no work order on a tender could be issued without the minister's approval 'to ensure better financial management'.
A probe has been ordered against 45 officers, including VIDC's former executive director DP Shirke, following recommendations of the Vadnere Committee. The committee instituted in March 2010 studied costs of tenders floated from 2006 to 2010 and found government rules were flouted in 90 tenders out of the 190 examined.
However, in May 2005, a letter had been issued to all irrigation development corporations (IDCs) of the state that no work order should be issued without the minister's approval. Work order are the final approval to the tender, after which the contractor can go ahead with the job.
The communication cited better financial management to instruct that all work orders should be first placed before the IDC chairman. Pawar, in his capacity as minister, was ex-officio chairman of VIDC and all other corporations.
TOI has documents showing work orders approved by Pawar as well as DP Shirke. The latter is now a secretary in the water resources department (WRD) and is also facing a probe.
The documents with TOI relate to orders issued in 2008 and 2009. Each paper approving a work order reiterates that the minister's permission is needed to ensure maximum irrigation with the current financial resources with VIDC. Earlier, work orders were signed by officers of chief engineer level. Currently, six chief engineers are facing the probe.
The Vadnere committee's probe covered all tenders above Rs1 crore during this period. Tenders above Rs1 crore were signed by Pawar while those between Rs50 lakh to a crore were cleared by the minster of state.
Sources say that by just signing the work orders Pawar appears to have kept himself safe from being questioned about lapses in the tenders. The tenders were approved by chief engineers, now facing the probe, while Pawar just signed the work order subsequently.
"However, since the order regarding the minister himself signing the work orders was issued on grounds of ensuring better financial management, why didn't Pawar do the required due diligence so that cost escalation could be controlled," asks BJP MLA from South West Nagpur Devendra Fadnavis.
The committee's report has not directly named any officer, but pointed out lapses in procedure. On the basis of this, VIDC forwarded the names of officers to face an inquiry to the water resources department, which issued the final order for an inquiry.
A list of 14 names was sent in the first batch after the Vadnere report on contracts in Gosikhurd project was released in 2010. Six months later, this was followed up with eight names after the same committee submitted the report on works on other projects.
Another 14 officials were named for an inquiry on the basis of the report by the Mendhgiri Committee, which probed the reasons for cracks developing in Gosikhurd dam canals. The latest list of 45 officers was sent by VIDC over a year ago, said a source.