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HYC seeks CBI probe into cost escalation of new Assembly

Shillong, July 1: The HYC has sought a CBI probe into escalation of cost for the construction of the new Assembly building at Mawdiangdiang.

The HYC members met Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh and submitted a memorandum to him in this regard, on Friday.

Metbah is heading the High Powered Committee (HPC) of the Assembly.

“We demand the HPC to recommend the state government to conduct an independent inquiry, preferably by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), on the alleged irregularities, defalcation of public fund and corruption by inflating/escalating the cost of the project without following due process and to fix responsibility on every person involved in this illegal act,” HYC general secretary Roykupar Synrem told reporters.

He said the PWD department had issued notice inviting e-Tender (NIT) on 06.09.2018 for the work “construction of new Assembly building” at an estimated cost of Rs 105,58,66,500.00 and the period of completion was 36 months.

The HPC under the chairmanship of the Speaker in its meeting held on 21.02.2019, after careful discussion approved the decision of the PWD (Building) Departmental Tender Committee of 2018-19 held on 22.01.2019, which had recommended to prequalify only Uttar Pradesh Rajkiya Nirman Nigam Limited (UPRNNL) and further directed the Chief Engineer, PWD (Buildings) to take necessary action for opening of financial bid of the pre-qualified bidder.

He said the HPC again sat on February 28  2019 where it was informed by the Chief Engineer PWD (B) that as per its recommendation, the financial bid of UPRNNL was opened and the rate quoted by the bidder was Rs 127,75,98,465.00, which is 21% above the estimated cost of the project.

“On being asked by the committee members, the Chief Engineer PWD (B) informed the committee that the rate quoted by the bidder is acceptable due to the following: The estimate was prepared on the basis of Schedule Of Rate ( SOR -B) for 2015-16 and since tendering process started only in 2018-19, which is after almost three years, there is a considerable variations in the cost of construction materials and labour,” he said.

After hearing the explanation given by the Chief Engineer PWD (B) as to high quoted rate and after detailed discussion, the HPC recommended allotting the work to UPRNNL at their own quoted rate which is 21% above the estimated cost.

“However, the following excerpts from the information provided by the office of the Chief Engineer PWD (B) and the office of the Executive Engineer, PWD (B), Shillong Building Division,  relating to the construction of the new Assembly building raises serious doubts of irregularities, defalcation of funds, money laundering and serious case of corruption by all parties/departments/officers concerned,” he said.

Synrem said it is strange that the office of the Chief Engineer PWD (B) has no knowledge whether there is any escalation/inflation because on this query he had forwarded the RTI application to the Office of the Executive Engineer, PWD (B), Shillong Division.

“The office of the Executive Engineer, PWD (B), then replied in the affirmative that there was an inflation from the original cost and the project is now costing Rs 177,78,17,000.00 out of which Rs 160,29,78,049.00 has already been released/paid to the contractor till date,” he said.

He said it was also replied by the same officer that the original approved cost is Rs 141,14,84,000.00 which is completely opposite as to the information provided by the Office of the Chief Engineer PWD (Building) vide the Letter of Award ( LoA) issued and the proceedings of the HPC which showed that the tender amount is Rs 127,75,98,465.0.

“Now the question that begs for an answer, is how did the EE PWD (Building) come up with the above mentioned original approved cost when the LOA issued to the UPRNN Ltd is only Rs 127,75,98,465.00/-? Who authorised the EE PWD (Building) to change the cost of tender value from the amount provided in the LOA to that of the so-called original approved cost?” Synrem asked.

When asked whether the HPC has approved the  cost escalation, the answer provided by the EE PWD (Building) was that there was no approval as such as it was never sought for.

“This is completely illegal, as it is clear that the owner of this project is the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly and the PWD Building is only the executing agency on behalf of the Assembly. Then how come its approval was not sought in the case of inflation of the project cost? Or is there complicity between the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly and the PWD Building in this illegal act?” he said.

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