Delhi minister Atishi has directed the Chief Vigilance Officer to carry out a probe into alleged irregularities in the setting up of the makeshift Sardar Patel Covid care facility in 2020.
Earlier this year, the Delhi High Court had directed the Delhi chief secretary to look into the issue of unpaid dues of a company that was involved in installing an air conditioning system at the centre.
"A detailed perusal of the records of the case raises strong suspicion of corrupt practices, underhand transactions, and cronyism which are completely antithetical to good governance," Atishi said in an official order dated September 25.
It appears that the petitioner firm and senior officials of the GNCTD "have colluded in the matter" and a "strong suspicion arises that the officials may have received kickbacks" from the firm for awarding it the tender to carry out the concerned works, the order said.
The minister directed the Chief Vigilance Officer "to undertake a thorough investigation of the matter, identify officers who may have engaged in corrupt practices, and submit a detailed report of the matter so that action can be taken against concerned officers".
Following the High Court's direction, a committee of three senior officers of the city government submitted its findings and recommendations in a report on April 10.
The minister said after perusing the report, she "found some glaring discrepancies in the entire process which raise serious questions regarding engagement of the firm and involvement of government officials".
A team of four PWD officials visited Sardar Patel COVID Care Centre and Hospital (SPCCCH), purported to be India's largest COVID care facility, for inspection, to offer technical assistance for the work of providing temporary air conditioning and submitting a cost estimate for the said work.
"It is surprising to observe that some of the PWD officials noted that some work pertaining to the temporary air conditioning system was already under progress," she said.
Atishi said an official requisition was received from DC (South) for "air conditioning, donning and doffing of the roof, waterproofing of the roof, electricals to the entire system, infrastructure for blood banks for the COVID care facility".
Following this, officials carried out multiple inspection visits and clicked pictures that showed that the work of installing the temporary air conditioning system was already in fast progress.
However, on June 26, 2020 the PWD floated a proposal inviting spot quotations for the work of providing temporary air conditioning at the facility.
The then deputy chief minister of Delhi noted that while the 10,000 bedded COVID care facility was much needed, the air conditioning costs amounting to Rs. 32 crore for a temporary arrangement was a huge expenditure of public money, and therefore, could not be justified for a short-term, temporary COVID care facility, which was not even an ICU facility, read the order.
"It is absolutely shocking that the petitioner firm was already carrying out the works even before spot tenders were invited by the PWD," Atishi said.
Noting that the petitioner firm did not intend to carry out the works on a pro bono basis and yet they were engaged at the site before the invitation of spot tenders, she said it naturally follows that they had been given assurances regarding being awarded the tender.
"Therefore, there is a strong likelihood that there was some form of collusion between the petitioner, PWD officials, and revenue officials, wherein the officials may have promised the award of the tender to the petitioner firm in return for kickbacks," she said.
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