Bhopal: EOW registers preliminary enquiry in Rs 877-cr water resources department advance payment scam

BHOPAL: The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) has registered a preliminary enquiry (PE) in connection with the Rs 877-crore advance payment scam of the water resources department (WRD). When the case came to light, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan asked the EOW to probe the matter. The advance payment was made to a few contractors by changing the rules of the tenders.

In the state, it is the first such case in which the conditions of tenders were changed after the work order was released.

The order for registering a case was pending with the EOW because of the pandemic. The general administration department (GAD) had already passed the order. Now, the agency has begun an inquiry into the case by registering a PE.

According to the director-general of the EOW, Ajay Sharma, the PE has been registered on the grounds of a letter received from the state government. Sharma further says that records have been sought from the department concerned. The inquiry is set to begin only after the arrival of the documents, he adds.

Advance payment was made by changing the conditions of the tenders during the Congress rule when M Gopal Reddy was the additional chief secretary of the WRD. Later, he was appointed as chief secretary. The probe agency may tighten its noose around Reddy.

By changing the conditions of seven tenders of the WRD, a sum of Rs 877 crore was paid in advance against the tenders of Rs 3,300 crore. It was done in May 2019. Out of the seven tenders, three were related to the construction of Hanota dam, Banda dam and Gond dam. Although payment was made in advance, the land was not even acquired for the projects.

The then engineer-in-chief of the WRD, Rajiv Suklikar, and chief engineer, Shirish Mishra, have already been grilled regarding this. According to both of them, they did everything following instructions from the then additional chief secretary. A copy of the order for changing the conditions was sent to him. The advance payment was made only after approval of the then additional chief secretary.

The probe agency will take the statements of these officers. Suklikar has been appointed on contract for the Narmada Valley Development Authority. Mishra is posted in the WRD and Reddy has settled down in Hyderabad after retirement.

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