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Canals’ repair under Punjab vigilance bureau scanner

Pankaj Dhiman | Chandigarh |

With the registration of a case against six engineers of the Punjab irrigation department and a contractor for allegedly causing a loss of Rs. 5.47 Crore to the state exchequer in Harike head works, the maintenance of canals is under the Vigilance Bureau (VB) scanner.

Senior VB officials said they have received inputs of embezzlement of funds in irrigation department's ongoing maintenance operations of various canals for the rainy season.

Citing the coming monsoon season, they said, private contractors collude with irrigation department officials to show a financial loss due to delay in the repair or construction work at various sites. 

The VB officials said the irrigation department is more prone to the embezzlement of funds as there is no mechanism to ascertain the exact status of a project.

"There is a nexus between department officials and contractors who deal with maintenance works of dams, water works and head works. In recent years, they flouted rules in the absence of any check. The modus oprandi is to show loss during the rains in order to increase the expenditure and cause delay in completion of maintenance works, " said a senior officer pleasing anonymity.

VB officers said the suspects in "Harike head works" scam also had a similar modus operandi as six engineers of irrigation department and one contractor made money in the de-silting work.

"We found that the engineers of irrigation department in connivance with private contractor had caused a huge loss to the state government out of total contract amount of Rs.12.04 Crore. It was awful to know that the accused engineers have paid Rs.5.47 Crore to the contractor for completing only 45 per cent of the tendered work and did not take any action against him for not completing the work in the stipulated time", Punjab VB Director G Nageswara Rao, told The Statesman.

He said the officers were indulging in misappropriation of sale proceeds of de-silted sand worth Rs.1.4 Crore. "We are under process of going through the similar nature of works elsewhere by irrigation department. As the rainy season is about to start, we will take a call at the sites to ascertain the exact status of repair or construction works at other sites, " said the VB Director.

VB sleuths had recently held the accused persons who jointly enhanced the cost of de-silting tender from Rs.1.47 Crore to Rs.1.80 Crore without the approval of the sanctioning authority in April 2016.