Mumbai, 30 September, 2019.
The government is not building the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj memorial out of respect and love for the warrior king, but since the beginning it has been a money making project for them. The extent of corruption in the project is more than one thousand crores..
Infact, the large scale corruption in project is proving to be a dark chapter in 59 years of political legacy of the state and after this the devotees of Shivaji Maharaj will not forgive the government who has played with their emotions, said Sachin Sawant, general secretary and spokesperson of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Commitee in a joint press conference with Nawab Malik, spokesperson of the NCP.
Speaking to media persons on the issue at Gandhi Bhavan on Monday, Sawant and Malik exposed the murky dealings in the Shiv Smarak project once again. This is the second part of the expose, a similar press conference was held a few days ago on the same issue.
In the previous press conference it was proved with proof that the negotiations undertaken by the government to bring the project cost down was objected by senior officials in the department.
The short listed contractor for the project, L&T had submitted a Rs 3800 crore bid which the government brought down to Rs 2500 crore through negotiations. The auditor department has raised objections to the negotiations and has also sought a detailed inquiry into it.
Sawant and Malik both said the government’s base price for the tender was kept Rs 2692.50 crore but L&T company’s bid was Rs 3826 crore, 42%higher than the government’s estimate. In this situation, the government should have re-called for fresh tenders, but the estimated price will be lesser by more than one thousand crores after the changes in the design.
The government is giving a perception that the have saved public money by negotiating with the L&T to bring down the already inflates bids. It is a scam of more than one thousand crore.
What is surprising is that even after knowing that they do not have the right to change the design and negotiate the bids the government still went ahead and did it.
In a meeting of the committee under the chief secretary it was expected that a legal advice from the law and judiciary department or from the Attorney General of the state should have been sought on whether the government can negotiate with the bidder. But instead, in a surprising move, M/s Aegis India Pvt Ltd the project consultant said that they have on their own appointed a well-known legal consultant whose opinion will be sought on the tender issue. And said that the report from the legal consultant will be submitted in the next meeting. The committee gave it’s approval to this unsolicited and uncalled for proposal.
As per the proposal, Aegis India Pvt Ltd, took a legal opinion from former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and retired judge VN khare. But when the report submitted by these two legal experts were studied it was found to be word to word same. And prime facie it looked like it was written by the same person, said Sawant.
Point number 13-22 in the report submitted by Rohatgi and point number 12-20 in the report submitted by retire judge Khare are word to word same.
Both the reports were tabled in the chief secretary chaired meeting on February 22, 2018.
It was expected that before the reports were approved, they would be sent for scrutiny to the law and judiciary department. But, the government was in such hurry to give the contract to L&T that the report was verbally approved by the law and judiciary department secretary Shri. Bhagwat. Shri. Bhagwat has no relation to the tender related subject. Based on the all this, Chief Minister have his approval to the project on February 28,2018. The public works department sent a letter seeking L&T’s approval for the project. All the changes were studied by L&T in just one day and approved the project on March 1. And that day itself Chief Minister handed over the letter of allotment to the company. From the entire sequence of events it is amply clear that everything was being done to benefit L&T.
For the legal opinion that Mukul Rohatgi gave he has sent a bill of Rs 15 lakh to Aegis India on 17 February, 2018. The public works department wrote to the Rohatgi and Khare on 12 October 2018 asking them whether the legal opinion was indeed given by them and also whether they received the payment for it from Aegis India. The department also asked them to submit the receipt of receiving the payment from Aegis.
It’s been over a year since the letter was written, but neither Rohatgi nor Khare has submitted the receipt. After a proper Inquiry it will be revealed if the payment was given by contractor company.
What is even for serious is that after the Supreme Court gave oral orals to stay the project on 11 January 2019, but in July 2019 Mukul Rohatgi representing as a lawyer to L& the matter before Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on the issue, which is a clear case of conflict of interest.
On one hand Rohatgi gave legal opinion in favour of L&T based on which the government gives them the contract, and on the other hand Rohatgi also represents L&T in court. This shows the level of irregularities involved in the project.
Vinayak Mete who is being asked by the government to defend the project today, had also written to Chief Minister on 15 September 2015 pointing out the corruption in the project exactly on the lines of Congress and NCP.
He has also said that the government was pressurising the officials to release Rs 80 crore to L&T. The letter written by Mete points towards the corrupt practices in the project.
He also said that will signing the agreement many important elements of the project were not included. Also departmental officers were threatened with suspension or inquiry to get them to sign the agreement and work order of the project. The work order which is usually issued once, in this was issued three times and so there must be an investigation in the entire process.
Despite such serious irregularities chief minister has not yet announced an inquiry in the project. This silence from the government on such serious issues shows that the government is aware about corruption.
Also the demand of give a mobilisation advance of Rs 81 crore to L&T for which the government is pressuring the departmental staff, is also an unheard thing in Maharashtra.
To release the advance is an attempt to give the company benefits without they having to do any work, this was also said by Mete in his letter.
And so all the allegations made by Congress and NCP about the corruption in the project are all being proved right said Sawant. He also said that both Nawab Malik and himself will complain to the Chief Vigilance Commissioner’ and if needed approach the court.