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Fissures appear in houses
Probe to look into quality of repairs

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 7: Allegations of money changing hands and poor quality of work have surfaced in a case of repair work of government quarters.

The state government has initiated an inquiry into the poor quality of maintenance work at the government quarters done by the works department. The government has ordered the probe following complaints by one of the occupants.

Special secretary, general administration department, Niten Chandra said: “We have asked the engineering-in-chief cum secretary of the works department to conduct an inquiry into the allegations. The inquiry will be conducted by an engineer not below the rank of superintending engineer.” The department has asked works secretary Subhendu Ray to file the report as soon as possible.

Ray, who is away in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, to attend a meeting of the Road Congress, said: “I will look into the complaint.”

Quarters in Unit-II came up in the 50s for government employees after the state capital was shifted to Bhubaneswar from Cuttack in 1948. The construction of the houses at that time was so good that they did not require repairs even after 50 years. However, there is a need for repairs now.

“If the quarters are not repaired immediately, they will develop cracks, which later will endanger the safety of the buildings,” said an occupant of the quarters, who has been staying there for over 25 years, on condition of anonymity.

Following the complaint on emergency need for repairs, the government had asked the works department to draw up a budget and take up the repairs. A budgetary allocation was made to carry out renovation and repair for nearly 70 quarters in Unit-II. There are 250-odd quarters in the area.

Accordingly, a blue print was prepared for each house. However, it was found that half the money allotted for the repairs was not spent. The government had sanctioned Rs 80 lakh for 70 quarters. In a specific case, a complainant alleged that of Rs 40,000 sanctioned, the contractor spent only Rs 17,000. “This was just the tip of the iceberg,” said an official.

Though the complaint about lack of proper maintenance of the building has reached the top level of administration, the division concerned has no idea about it. The executive engineer of division-1, Manoj Tripathy, seems to be in complete darkness about what is going on. Tripathy said: “I am not aware of it. Let me inquire about the incident.”

In many cases, no work was done at all but it was shown in reports that work on the quarters had been completed. What was done mainly was repair and cementing of the floor, putting tiles on the floor, rooftop repair, installation of new latrines and giving a facelift to the existing bathrooms. In a few cases, the boundary of the house was either built or being repaired.

“However, in most of the cases, the guidelines of the government were not followed,” said an official.

Most of the contractors admitted that as they had to give a certain percentage of the allocated money to their seniors, they had to compromise with the quality of work.

One of the complainants has also brought to the notice of the government how a junior worker had to give a percentage of the funds allotted to his seniors.

In his complaint, a government official whose house has been repaired, alleged that nearly 48 per cent of the total amount of Rs 80 lakh sanctioned was shared as “percentage for higher ups” from the rank of junior engineer to that of chief engineer.

“It is a serious allegation that so much money has been misappropriated by officials and engineers. Everything will be exposed once the inquiry is completed,” said an official.