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CBI books Padma Shree Leela Samson over irregularities in renovation of auditorium

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audited the expenditure of the foundation and brought out various lapses in executing the renovation works. It was also pointed out that the renovation works were undertaken without formal sanction of the governing board and financial committee of the foundation.

SNS | New Delhi |

The CBI has booked ace Bharatnatyam dancer and former Chairperson of Sangeet Natak Akademi Leela Samson for alleged “unfruitful expenditure” of Rs 7.02 crore on the renovation of Koothambalam auditorium of Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, officials said Saturday.

Samson, a Padma Shree awardee and also a former chairperson of Central Board of Film Certification, has been booked along with the then officers of the Foundation- Chief Accounts Officer TS Murthi, Accounts Officer S Ramachandran, Engineering officer V Srinivasan and proprietor of CARD and Chennai Engineers, they said.

In a complaint, the Chief Vigilance Officer of the Culture Ministry has alleged that the contract for the renovation work was awarded by the officials of the Foundation to consultant architect Centre for Architectural Research and Design (CARD) in violation of General Finance Rules, they said.

The Kalakshetra Foundation was declared as an institution of national importance and was brought under Ministry of Culture as autonomous organisation. The foundation receives aid every year from the ministry for its developmental activities.

It was found that foundation had built an auditorium, named as Koothambalam, in 1985 for stage performance. In 2006, it was decided to upgrade the auditorium. The renovation of it was discussed in several financial committees as well as governing body board meetings.

In 2009, a civil works committee under Leela Samson was formed. The committee was to prepare necessary estimation based on the recommendations of the governing board calling for tender and place it before the finance committee for approval.

Samson, the director, authorized the governing body to spend the amount intended for plans scheme on advice of the civil works advisory committee.

It was found that the civil works committee appointed CARD in 2010 to receive, analyze and advise on appointment of contractors for renovation works. CARD selected five contractors. Further, some more contractors were selected by the civil works committee for renovation of the work.

The contractors were given work order on nomination basis without following the open tender process. In all 28 works related to renovation were carried out with total expenditure of Rs 7.02 crore.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audited the expenditure of the foundation and brought out various lapses in executing the renovation works. It was also pointed out that the renovation works were undertaken without formal sanction of the governing board and financial committee of the foundation.

This led to huge controversy after which Samson resigned from the post of Director and member of the civil works panel in 2012.

Thereafter, the matter was referred to CVC of the Ministry.

The Central Public Works Department team in Chennai inspected the work and assessed that foundation spent approximately Rs 62.20 lakh more than the estimated amount. The team also found that the contracts were awarded at a higher rate and payments made to the contractors accordingly.

In 2017, the vigilance department of the ministry forwarded the complaint to the CBI after which a preliminary enquiry was carried out.