WB-FUNDED WATER SCHEME UNDER SCANNER-HT
Govt norms were bypassed, projects initiated without clearances, contractors given advances, said the audit
MUMBAI: While major irrigation projects in the state are already under the scanner over graft allegations, a Rs1,600 crore water sector improvement project is also being probed for substandard canal work and lax dam safety procedures.
The water resources department ordered the inquiry in June after the World Bank, which has loaned the money, raised concerns about the quality of work. Under the scheme, 236 canals were to be modernised for effective water distribution, and 277 dams were to be made safer.
Water resources minister Sunil Tatkare said the inquiry was constituted to resolve some technical issues, and is being conducted in northern Maharashtra and Marathwada regions by chief engineers of the department’s Amravati and Nashik divisions.
“The panels were to submit their reports by September 15, but have asked for a two-month extension saying they were unable to visit the sites because of rains,” said a senior state official.
Activists are not enthused. “The truth will prevail only when independent experts are assigned the probes. The department’s engineers are under political pressure,” said Kishor Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti.
CAG had pointed at irregularities in Konkan dam projects in 2010
MUMBAI: The state could have saved crores of tax money had it acted on the 2010 audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the performance of Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC). The KIDC audit carried out by the CAG and tabled in the state legislature in 2010 pointed to arbitrary cost hikes and doles to contractors among other irregularities.
Activists have pointed to massive irregularities in irrigation projects in Konkan. But the CAG report suggests that this has been the norm with the KIDC.
Consider this. The KIDC allocated existing funds across all ongoing projects. This was done against recommendations of the high power committee in 2001 to prioritise allocation of funds first to projects that were 75% complete, followed by those where projects were 50% to 75% complete. The KIDC also took up 17 new projects between 2005-06 and 2008-09. "Thus, even after incurring an expenditure of Rs4,363 crore on 90 projects, only 13 projects could be completed till 2009-10." The report said there are at least 38 projects in Konkan, where even after spending Rs717 crore, no irrigation potential or water storage has been created so far.
In his defence, the executive director of KIDC said that new projects were taken up on public demand. The auditor also slammed KIDC for issuing work orders to projects without acquiring land, settling claims of project affected persons or getting forest clearance. For instance, work on Shirshinge minor irrigation project remained incomplete for five years for want of forest clearance. The KIDC did not pay the net present value for the afforestation worth Rs14.46 crore for this project but doled out idling charges of Rs18 crore to the contractor. In at least nine of the 16 test-checked projects, the CAG found that the height of dams was increased after starting work, which added a burden of Rs383 crore. "None of these dams were completed till 2010 nor the water storage enhanced in any of these dams..." the auditor said. From 2005 to 2010, delay in project completion hiked costs by Rs3,264 crore. HT has reported that in the last couple of years, KIDC has cleared projects like Balganga, Kondhane where costs have been hiked from 400% to 600% from one month to a year after giving the first work order.
Ignoring irrigation work manual norms, KIDC first granted revised administrative approvals to at least 12 surveyed minor projects increasing costs from Rs47 crore to Rs275 crore, then incurred additional expense of Rs132 crore on the dams. The CAG also found cases where advances of Rs11.81 crore were given to contractors to start work. The money wasn’t recovered. "While the KIDC had shortage of funds for payment of compensation, advances paid to contractors were not recovered for long periods," the report said.