A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, which was tabled in the Jharkhand Assembly on Wednesday, has pointed out several irregularities by the state government’s rural development department in the construction of bridges.
According to the CAG report for 2018-19, the rural development department had neither framed any operational guidelines nor conducted any survey to assess the gaps in rural road network that warranted the construction of bridges.
Moreover, the bridges were selected mostly on the recommendations of MPs and MLAs under the Mukhya Mantri Gram Setu Yojana without examining their feasibility, the report stated.
The audit team therefore found out that three bridges — all within one-and-a-half kilometres — were built on Kesho river in Koderma for Rs 13.44 crore to cater to the same habitat, suggesting that it was an infructuous expenditure.
“The department also didn't have any guidelines for engaging consultants for preparation of detailed project reports (DPRs) (for construction of proposed bridges) and that provided them with an undue benefit of open-ended engagement period,” Indu Agarwal, the state’s principal accountant-general (audit), told the media about the CAG report at her Doranda office in Ranchi on Thursday.
“The office of the chief engineer that sanctions these bridges also doesn’t have any design cell, compelling it to accept the DPRs as submitted by the consultants,” she added, indicating that the department had no mechanism to detect and correct any design faults that might creep in during the construction of bridges under MMGSY that was launched in Jharkhand in September 2001.
“The consultants didn’t conduct the required geo-technical Investigations and analysis of hydrological and traffic data,” Agarwal said quoting the CAG report.
As a result, eight of the test-checked 42 bridges, constructed at an expenditure of Rs 52.12 crore, got fully or partially damaged subsequently, she added.
The audit team also found faults in bridge designs as the consultants provided sharp curves up to 90 degrees in approach roads at entry or exit points of 16 bridges and also shortened the width of approach roads to almost half in the case of 28 bridges.
According to the report, the tender and agreement documents were loaded in favour of the contractors and no responsibility was fixed for the execution of sub-standard work valued at Rs 52.07 crore for six bridges.
“During 2014-19, 571 bridges were tendered in the state. Of these, 57 bridges with a total agreement value of Rs 251.41 crore were awarded to 13 contractors with each one getting two to seven projects,” the report added, citing examples.
In the absence of periodic maintenance of completed bridges, scouring in bridge foundations, wear and tear in expansion joints, cracks in RCC (reinforced cement concrete) work and damages of various kinds were noticed during physical verification, the CAG report added.