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The landslides were reported to have occurred in two phases -- from June 21 to 25 and September 20 to 22 in 2014
The landslides were reported to have occurred in two phases -- from June 21 to 25 and September 20 to 22 in 2014|Representational image
ARUNACHAL PRADESH

Phantom landslides? CAG raises doubts over Arunachal projects

Possibility of fraudulent payment, misappropriation of govt funds in ‘execution’ of restoration works on a West Kameng road in 2014-15 cannot be ruled out, the authority notes

Ranju Dodum

Itanagar: Arunachal Pradesh’s climatic conditions coupled with its topography means that the state is prone to landslides, affecting road communication almost throughout the year. This combination means that clearing work often has to be done multiple times in a year. The CAG’s latest report suggests that such work has to be done even when there has been no such incident.

Raising questions about the authenticity of expenditure by the PWD Bomdila division’s executive engineer, the CAG report on Social, Economic, General, Revenue and Economic (PSUs) Sectors for the financial year 2016-17 said that Rs 1.37 crore was paid to seven contractors for work that had already been done.

Records obtained by the CAG in September 2016 showed that the Executive Engineer (EE), PWD, Bomdila Division undertook restoration works on the Gacham-Morshing road (24.50 km) in West Kameng district which was “damaged by floods/landslides in June 2014 and September 2014 for a total length of 3.187 km on emergency basis commencing in August 2014”.

The restoration work was estimated to cost Rs 82.71 lakh.

Also read: Police raids in West Siang politically motivated: Arunachal group

The landslides were reported to have occurred in two phases -- from June 21 to 25 and September 20 to 22 in 2014.

The CAG noted that the work was “commenced without obtaining the approval of the competent authority on different dates between August 2014 and January 2015 by engaging seven contractors and without issuing any formal work orders to them”.

The report said that the EE, Bomdila made payments for the “clearance of 89,299.462 cubic metres of earth from a road length of 11.319 km” although the total estimated quantity of clearance of earth was originally 47,182.30 cubic meters from a total road length of 3.187 km. In short, payment was made for a greater amount of clearance work than was originally estimated.

The works of clearing the landslides were completed between September 2014 and February 2015 and the department “subsequently issued 30 work orders to seven contractors in March 2015 and made a total payment of Rs 1.22 crore to them in the same month”.

As per the CAG report, the same office issued a tender on 17 February 2015 to award the work (in three packages) of clearing landslides in the same stretch of road to M/s PK Thungon Builders which quoted the lowest tendered cost of Rs 138.45 lakh. The said work was completed on 20 March 2015 and the department released a payment of Rs 136.85 lakh to the contractor on 23 March 2015.

The CAG, however, raised doubts over the authenticity of the entire process since the ‘Damage Report’ for the year 2014-15 submitted by the same EE, PWD, Bomdila to his immediate superior noted that there “were no incidents of flood/landslides on Gacham-Morshing Road (24.50 km) after 22 September 2014 till March 2015”, therefore negating the need for additional clearance work.

“Audit could not, therefore, vouchsafe whether the works stated to have carried out by M/s PK Thungon Builders were actually executed or not,” it said.

The CAG report, in fact, said that measurements recorded in the revealed that the works for 5.698 km of road length executed by M/s PK Thungon Builders were overlapping with the works already executed and completed in February 2015 by four out of the seven contractors.

It also raised questions over the timeline of the events from when the tender was floated, the work awarded, completed, and payment made to M/s PK Thungon Builders, saying that it “raises misgivings about the work executed”.

Also read: Phantom landslides? CAG raises doubts over Arunachal projects

The department did respond in August 2017 to the CAG’s contentions, stating that the payment for flood damage restoration work was to clear various accrued liabilities from 2008 to September 2014 and payments were made in two parts: Rs 1.22 crore to seven contractors and Rs 1.37 crore to M/s PK Thungon Builders.

However, the CAG said that the department’s response that the payments were made for clearing liabilities is “curious given that seven contractors were paid Rs 1.22 crore on the basis of measurements recorded for works executed during August 2014 to February 2015 for landslide damage which occurred during June 2014 and September 2014”.

“The payment of Rs 1.37 crore to M/s PK Thungon Builders was for landslide clearance works during the period when no such incidents had occurred and further, overlapped with the works already executed by the seven contractors on the same road,” it said.

The CAG said that a possibility of fraudulent payment and misappropriation of government funds cannot be ruled out and called for referring the matter to the state vigilance department for investigation.