Congress-NCP laud graft probe into Shiv Smarak



The ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies Congress and Nationalist Congress Party welcomed Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's announcement to probe allegations of corruption in the much-anticipated grand memorial to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, here on Monday.

Taking serious note of the allegations of graft in the construction of the memorial, Thackeray late on Sunday said not only will the issue be probed, but "action would be taken against those found guilty".

Congress state spokesperson Sachin Sawant and NCP's national spokesperson Nawab Malik endorsed the CM's stand and said that the people will never forgive those who have sought to indulge in corrupt activities in the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

Both Sawant and Malik had jointly raised the issue in a big way prior to the October assembly elections, but the previous Bharatiya Janata Party-led government dismissed their allegations on the project, planned to be constructed around 3.5 kms in the Arabian Sea off south Mumbai.

In separate media briefings in Mumbai and Nagpur respectively, they referred to the stinging report of the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) which has pointed out several irregularities pertaining to the proposed project.

These lapses relate to inviting global bids for constructing the memorial on the basis of three different cost estimates which were not approved by the Competent Authority, initiating the work without getting the mandatory Administrative Approval or the Technical Sanction.

The CAG also raised eyebrows at the manner in which the scope of the project work - to be executed by the lowest bidder, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) for its original bid of Rs 3,826, and after negotiations reduced to around Rs 2,500 crore - was substantially changed, thus compromising on transparency, equity and fairness to all the other bidders.

When the then government claimed that it was done after taking legal opinion since re-tendering would have led to further delays in the project, the CAG termed it as "untenable" and sternly observed that changing the scope of work after opening the bids had vitiated the tendering procedure and defeated the objective of transparency in the tendering process itself.

The CAG also commented adversely on the deletion of training, operation and maintenance cost from the contract on grounds it could give an undue advantage to the contractor for better negotiation for operation and maintenance of the project which could cause additional financial burden at a later stage.

It also frowned at the manner in which the total height of the proposed statue was increased from 210 metres to 212 metres entailing an additional cost of Rs.81 crore, calling it "improper planning".

Reacting, BJP state President Chandrakant Patil - who was the then Public Works Department Minister - dared the MVA government to "initiate all enquiries" which the BJP was prepared to face.

"We negotiated and brought down the amount from Rs 3,800-crore to Rs 2,500-crore. Not a single rupee has been paid till date. Then, where's the corruption", Patil demanded.

He also hinted that "some people in the government" are feeling uneasy over the Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial, resulting in the allegations against the BJP.IANS