Rs 74 crore-scam surfaces in Gurupriya Bridge construction

Bhubaneswar: While the Odisha government is all praises and taking credit for completing the most-awaited Gurupriya Bridge in Malkangiri, a report by the Principal Accountant General has unearthed shocking levels of misappropriation in the form of undue favours to contractors engaged in the construction.

A draft note by the Principal Accountant General (Economic and Revenue Sector Audit) Economic Sector-II, Puri branch sent to the state’s Public Works department (PWD) has stated that the contractor of the project was given undue profits to the tune of Rs 74 crore.

A budget of Rs 104.38 crore was allocated for the project on February 2014, but the total estimate was increased to Rs 172.58 crore as the construction of the project was decided to be carried under Engineering and Procurement Construction (EPC) mode which has been questioned by the PAG.

While funds for all expenditures were included in the budget estimate, the state PWD had allocated Rs 24 crore more in lieu of transportation of construction equipments through boats. Similarly, the PWD had also raised the mark-up for material, labour, and machinery cost to 25 percent instead of 7.5 percent earlier fixed thereby taking the total expenses under this head to Rs 16.87 crore.

On the other hand Works department minister, Prafulla Mallick has said that Gurupriya was a challenge which the state government has been able to overcome successfully and it has received accolades from across the country. “As far as the PAG report is considered, I can only comment after going through it,” said Mallick.

Similarly, former Works department secretary Nanda Nandan Das said, “If a project needs any deviation then it is generally approved but if in this case, there is any misappropriation, it will be dealt as per law.”

Meanwhile, the report has triggered resentment with Opposition political parties coming down hard on the state government.

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BJP Spokesperson Golak Mohapatra said, “It is shocking to note and absolutely baffling as to what kind of materials were used in the construction of the bridge that it cost nearly Rs 20 lakh per metre. We demand a high level probe into the issue.”

Similarly, Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik also criticised the government saying, “It has intentionally misappropriated the funds by completely changing the initial project design and conditions of tender. Gurupriya is just the tip of an iceberg and the state government is embroiled in many such irregularities where thousands of crores have been misappropriated,” Patnaik said.

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On the other hand, ruling-BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra said politicising the issue is unwarranted. “If the state government has an administrative set up to oversee such affairs there is no need for political interference. We should wait so that the administrative system takes necessary action. I don’t know why the Opposition is worried,” Patra said.