Sunday, 24 September, 2017

Bribery charge

JICA-like probe needed; govt’s rnapproach under scanner

13th July 2017, 03:05 Hrs
A disclosure by Boston-based consultancy firm that bribes were paid to get a water supply project in Goa has thrown open a pandora’s box with another Louis Berger-like scam in the making. Two years after the Louis Berger scandal made headlines in the State, CDM Smith through its employees and agents including its subsidiary in India (CDM), admitted before the US Department Justice that it had bribed officials in India including bribes paid for a water supply project in Goa. The bribe amount was stated to be US $1.18 million in exchange for highway construction supervision and design contracts and a bribe paid to officials in Goa to the tune of $25,000 for a water project contract. The disclosure states that bribes were paid between 2011 and 2015. The bribes generally were stated to be 2-4% of the contract price and paid through fraudulent subcontractors, who provided no actual services and understood that payments were meant to solely benefit the officials.rBribery allegations are nothing new in Goa. Former chief minister Digambar Kamat and ex-PWD minister Churchill Alemao were embroiled in the infamous Louis Berger case which revolved around allegations of bribes being paid by the US-firm to get a Rs 1,031-crore project funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).rThe JICA case had charted its own course after State authorities took suo motto action based on media reports. In swift action, the crime branch had swooped down on political heavyweights including Digambar and Churchill. Although the current case doesn’t disclose names and only says ‘officials’, it brings into focus the role of the then PWD ministers. In 2011 Churchill Alemao, who is already charged in the JICA bribery case, was holding charge, while during the subsequent years it was Sudin Dhavalikar who was at the helm.rNHAI has promptly initiated an internal investigation into the allegations while PWD Minister Sudin Dhavalikar has set a time-frame to complete an internal probe. Investigations should start on a war footing. Government’s approach towards this bribery charge will be closely watched. Although there is no clarity on which project in Goa is involved, there are broad clues which the authorities can use to proceed with the investigation. The probe should be undertaken in all seriousness, similar to the way crime branch went about with its JICA probe. PWD ministers and key officials within the ministry during the period should be under scrutiny. The corrupt should be brought to book.

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