Faced with successive losses in three polls and a series of reprimands and disclosures over its alleged irregularities in its dealings, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi looks set for a fresh bout of controversy.
A ‘creative wing’ floated by the Delhi government on September 1, 2015 under the Public Works Department (PWD) without the requisite approval or knowledge of the then Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung has now come under the lens of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for alleged irregularities and flouting of norms and laid down procedures.
As per the information available, the Engineer-in-Chief (Projects) was directed to hire 16 professionals to the so-called ‘creative wing’ by the Office of Minister (PWD). However, according to the communication dated February 25, 2016, issued by the Office of Minister, the requirement was projected as 24 professionals. The Delhi government had even hired a consultant to recruit them, again in complete contravention of rules.
Here is why the CBI is red-flagging the decisions.
First, the Union Home Ministry's notification dated May 21, 2015, bars the Delhi government from taking any decision without the approval of the LG who is the “administrative head” of the NCT of Delhi. The notification was challenged by the Delhi government in High Court which subsequently validated it. The Delhi government’s decision of forming a separate wing under the PWD thus becomes null and void since it did not have the permission of the LG.
Second, the firm hired for the recruitment had no prior experience of working on any architecture-related projects. According to CBI sources, the government had hired a company Soni Detective and Allied Services to recruit staff to run the wing. The consultant firm was even asked to recruit architects for the PWD department.
The sources told India TV that the government had cited the firm’s previous experience as "comprehensive development of corridor (Ring Road) between Prembari Pul to Azadpur” to make their bid eligible. However, records reveal that this work mainly involved hiring of data entry operators, stenos, peons, messengers, drivers, security guards, diary dispatchers and sweepers etc.
However, it was tasked with recruiting staff for the ‘creative wing’ as well as architects for the PWD. How a consultancy tasked with hiring data operators, peons and sweepers would help hire manpower required for the ‘creative wing’ is something Kejriwal and his government are best placed to respond.
The decision has now come under the lens of the CBI, which began preliminary enquiry into the matter yesterday.
Third, the AAP government sanctioned a pay scale of Rs 25,000 to Rs 1 lakh for each employee. The figures are believed to have been arrived at considering the “trending market rate”. The company – Soni Detective and Allied Services -- was subject to receive 8 to 10 per cent of the salary of each employee as commission from the AAP government for each recruitment.
However, there is no documentation on record to show if any market survey was done to arrive at the figures for “trending market rate”. Moreover, there is no analysis to justify the exact requirement in terms of numbers and categories.
“There is no record showing due diligence as prescribed vide Section 6 para 6.13 (ii) of CPWD Manual 2014,” the Delhi government, under the direction of LG office, said in its communication to the CBI.
It has also questioned how the “requirement in terms of numbers was fixed and how the figures for remuneration were arrived at.”
"The supply of manpower (professionals) through outsourcing agency is not justified when this option is costing more because of payment of service charges to the outsourcing agency. Availability of such supplier of qualified manpower in the market presently is questionable. It does not make sense to outsource through an agency which only take away a commission."
Fourth, information available with India TV shows that the payments made by the Delhi government to Soni Detective and Allied Services came from the funds that were saved from the Barapullah project. This payment too was against rules, CBI sources said.
Kejriwal, during the inauguration of the project, had claimed that his government saved Rs 125 crore in the construction of the flyover. On January 17, 2016, he had tweeted that the flyover was built on actual cost of Rs 300 crore against the sanctioned cost of Rs 425 crore.
According to Delhi government, it had saved over Rs 350 crore in building at least five flyovers across the capital.
“Earlier, it was decided with the approval of the Minister that the expenditure will be booked against ongoing project of “Elevated Corridor for Baramullah Phase- III, New Delhi”. Later on, it was decided that the expenditure shall be initially chargeable to c/o 1000 mohalla clinins,” the documents, exclusively available with India TV say.
“Subsequently, again the expenditure of the creative team to contingency of unrelated projects needs to be examined in terms of Section 4 para 4.1.5 of the CPWD Manual 2014. This route of charging expenditure against contingency of an unrelated project is questionable,” the communication by the CBI says.
The decision to float a ‘creative wing’ in the PWD was part of the files that then LG’s office had sent to CBI for a scrutiny.
The three-member Shunglu Committee, formed by the then LG Najeeb Jung, has alleged "gross misuse of power" by the Kejriwal government.
The committee headed by former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) V K Shunglu reviewed 404 files of the AAP government and alleged that there were irregularities with various appointments.
The committee questioned the allotment of a bungalow to the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal, saying rules were not followed in the process.
Office land to AAP, spending on the advertisements promoting Kejriwal, appointment of Health Minister Satyendra Jain’s daughter Soumya as an adviser in the Mohalla Clinic project are other alleged wrongdoings red flagged by the committee.
The development comes just days ahead of the crucial MCD polls in Delhi that come as a referendum of sorts for the AAP government which finishes its half way mark since taking charge of Delhi.