Former MD’s appointment, favouritism in allotments, advance payments under scanner
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz SRINAGAR: Crime Branch sleuths on Friday have extensively questioned Naeem Akhtar former Minister of Public Works Department (PWD) over the alleged favouritism and irregularities in allotments of works to handpicked ‘contractors’ in the State-controlled Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation. Authoritative sources revealed to STATE TIMES that the Minister was quizzed over his role in certain allotments and reinstatement and appointment of a Managing Director (MD) in his capacity as Chairman of JKPCC for over two years. The four-hour-long question and answer session, which according to one Crime Branch officer was “interaction”, happened at the former Minister’s official residence on Gupkar Road for four hours. Even as the ex-Minister Naeem Akhtar maintained that he had not committed anything in violation to rules and norms or in contravention to the powers delegated to him by then Government, sources said that his answers to specific questions of illegal allotments and advance payments to select ‘contractors’ in crores of rupees, were “not convincing”. Sources said that during months of sustained investigation, Crime Branch Kashmir has detected “illegal and fraudulent handling of matters” including allotment of works to the tune of over Rs 200 crore to handpicked ‘contractors’ without floating any tenders and without attempting any competition in the whole process. Illegal allotment of works for AIIMS, South Kashmir, in Awantipora area to the tune of Rs 110 crore to a ‘contractor’ perceived to be very close to then ruling family, has been particularly under investigation. Interestingly, works to such a huge amount have been allotted to the company which the influential contractor is known to have launched just one day before getting the allotments.
According to these sources, it has been observed that payments in hundreds of crores of Rupees have been withheld without any plausible reason to scores of genuine contractors who had invested their hard-earned money in the works assigned to them by JKPCC and who had completed most of the works. However, on the other side, hundreds of crores as “mobilisation amount” have been released in advance to the cherry-picked fake contractors. Sources said that many of such fake contractors had left the works incomplete and grabbed the money released to them in advance.
In gross violation of rules, then MD, who had been unceremoniously removed by the Chairman/Minister from JKPCC in 2017, is known to have diverted the funds received from different government departments for specific works to the works allotted to the blue-eyed contractors. It has also been detected that imported Italian marble has been used in place of normal domestic marble for the purpose of escalating the cost of works in order to provide undue benefit to select contractors. One particular Srinagar-based contractor has been allotted many of high-profit items in the under-construction J&K Legislature Complex and Dental College in Jammu.
It has also been detected that finishing item and supply of furniture worth crores of rupees has been executed through select suppliers in many projects including Government Degree College Bandipora. Such high-profit supplies have been made without floating any e-tenders or without assigning such specified items to SICOP. Sources said that carpet worth Rs 18 lakh has been laid on the floors of a JKPCC-constructed building while as Rs 1.80 crore has been drawn from the exchequer on account of the same furnishing item.
Even as VRV air-conditioning has been banned in all hospitals by the union Ministry of Health, JKPCC is known to have used the same in many of the hospital buildings in Jammu and Kashmir while as payment is known to have been released for a different type of air-conditioning. “On one type of air-conditioning total expenditure is for example Rs 40 lakh. On another type of air-conditioning, which is for safety of heart patients, the cost is Rs 1 crore. They have spent Rs 40 lakh and drawn payment worth Rs 1 crore”, said an official associated with the investigation.
Sources said that the role of the ex-Minister as Chairman JKPCC was particularly under scanner in reinstatement and subsequently the posting of a blue-eyed engineer as MD. The official had allegedly remained on unauthorised absence during years of his working with private companies in The Gulf. The former Chairman is now facing allegation of the “unauthorised reinstatement” of the same engineer, whose services in JKPCC had been duly terminated, as also the same officer’s posting as MD upon the displacement of a former MD.
Sources said that Crime Branch had completed its investigation in several matters and the preliminary challan would be shortly filed in a judicial court while as the investigation in several other matters would continue and could be completed in the next three or four months.
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