Asansol, March 12: The Congress has alleged that the Trinamul-run Asansol-Durgapur Development Authority has given a private agency the contract to lay pipes under a central scheme at seven times the specified rate.
Congress leaders at Asansol municipality said while the public health engineering department that sets rates for such projects pays Rs 342.50 for laying every metre of drinking water pipes with a diameter of 800mm, the ADDA has assigned the work under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission at Rs 2,445 a metre. Officials of the state department confirmed the rate.
Rabiul Islam, the mayor-in-council member (water supply) at the Asansol civic body, said: “The ADDA has given the contract to Dipti Construction of Asansol at seven times the government-approved rate. This is like daylight robbery of central funds. The work was given to the agency in November (last year) but it is progressing at snail’s pace.”
Told about the allegation, minister Subrata Mukherjee, who heads the public health engineering department, said: “This is a gross violation of rules. The CAG (government auditor) will find the anomaly and seek an explanation. While implementing such projects, government rates should be adhered to.”
Urban development minister Firhad Hakim echoed Mukherjee, adding he would “look into the matter”. ADDA comes under the urban development department. The authority’s chairman and local MLA Nikhil Banerjee said he would “comment later” as he was “busy with budget session”.
Sources said Rs 133 crore was allotted in phases for improving drinking water facilities in Asansol. The Centre has recently set a March 2014 deadline for all projects under JNNURM in the state.
The ADDA, which is building underground reservoirs and a water treatment plant apart from laying pipes in Asansol, had given the contract to Dipti Construction on November 21 last year after floating tenders. ADDA officials today said the agency was the lowest bidder.
The Congress accused the private agency of bribing Trinamul leaders, saying the floating of tenders was an “eyewash”. “Why did the ADDA not go for a re-tender? It didn’t even verify the rates with other companies. It is clear that the deal was done under the table,” a Congress leader said.
It could not be confirmed if the private agency has any Trinamul link.
Asked about the allegation, ADDA chief executive officer Antara Acharya said: “I agree that the government rate is Rs 342.50. But it is not necessary to maintain that in every circumstance. The laying of pipes is difficult in places where they have to be placed below railway tracks. So, the rates may vary.”