Quid pro quo: Old steel was used for railway under-bridge work, and contractor allegedly routed money to senior divisional engineer’s kin
A major scam involving a dubious tender awarded to an unqualified contractor, old height gauges re-used for a railway under-bridge (RUB), and money-laundering to the tune of lakhs of rupees has come to light with the CBI registering a case against a senior divisional engineer of South Western Railway (Hubballi).
According to a CBI press release on Monday, the work involved providing an additional height gauge for an RUB. It is alleged that old dismantled structural steel of an unmanned level crossing was used for the work and no steel was purchased, though the contractor received payments. “The public servant obtained illegal gratification in return with money transferred to the accounts of his relatives/friends by the contractor,” the agency alleged. The contractor has also been booked by the investigative agency.
Following seizure of incriminating documents by the CBI from Hubballi, Kolhapur and Bhilwara, the agency’s Bengaluru team filed an FIR on February 23 for criminal conspiracy, cheating and other illegal acts under various provisions of the IPC.
According to the agency’s source information, Neeraj Bapna, then Senior Divisional Engineer (North), SWR, Bengaluru and presently Senior Divisional Engineer (West), SWR, Hubballi, made fictitious payments to a selected contractor and obtained an undue pecuniary advantage in return.
For Agreement No. 229/SBC/18 of 20-12-2018, an open tender No. 22/SBC/18 was invited on 25-9-2018 through e-tendering for the work of providing an additional height gauge at an RUB in the North sub-division. The approximate value of the tender was Rs 59,75,495, with a completion period of 6 months. The eligibility criterion for the work was “any civil engineering work of value not less than 35% of advertised tender value in a single completed contract, or structural steel work for a value of 35% in the same or any other contract.”
The tender was opened on 24-10-2018, and the L-1 tenderer was disqualified on the grounds of not meeting the tender requirements. The L-2 tenderer, P Aswartha Narayana, Ananthapur, became the revised L-1 tenderer, but according to the investigative agency his work experience did not involve any civil works or structural steel work and was only labour- oriented track work, which was in violation of the tender conditions. In spite of that, Neeraj Bapna, as the tender accepting authority, accepted the offer of Aswartha Narayana on 13-11-2018.
It is further alleged that no invoices for structural steel purchased for execution of the work were available in the files and the RMC (ready-mix concrete) invoices produced for passing the bills were also fake as the invoices were in the names of other contractors. It is also alleged that old, dismantled structural steel of unmanned level crossing height gauges was used, and hence more than 60% of the payments made was fake.
‘Multiple fund transfers’
It is alleged that the bank account statements of the contractor in the Hindupur branch of IOB and the Penukonda branch of the SBI showed multiple fund transfers to various accounts in the Ichalkaranji and Pune branches of various banks in Maharashtra. Later, the money was allegedly paid to relatives and associates of Neeraj Bapna from these accounts.
The Railway Board on February 16 this year conveyed the approval of the Competent Authority to the CBI to conduct an investigation into the scam.