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Ditto affidavits by Nagpur, Amravati ACBs clear Ajit Pawar in irrigation scam

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New Delhi, Dec 07: Now the Amravati Unit of the Anti Corruption Bureau has filed an affidavit before the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court clearing former deputy chief minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar in the irrigation scam.

This comes after the Nagpur unit of the ACP too stating in an affidavit that it found no wrongdoing on the part of Pawar. The wordings in both the affidavits are the same.

Ajit Pawar

In the 16 page affidavit, the ACB stated that the chairman of the VIDC/Minister of WRD cannot be held responsible for the acts of executing agencies, as there is no legal duty on his party. This was in reference to Pawar's tenure as the Chairman, Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation and Minister of Water Resources Department during the Congress-NCP government in the state.

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The affidavit put the blame for two alleged irregularities. They were the approval to updated tender cost and release of Mobilisation Advance to contractors on the WRD Principal Secretary and Executive Director of VIDC.

"There are two allegations against the Chairman of the VIDC viz. (A) Regarding grant of sanction to the liability of the tender cost including that of updated cost and (B) grant of Mobilization Advance to the contractor despite there was no mention of the same in the tender booklet. Detailed enquiries/ investigations have been conducted in this regard.

Opinion of the expert committee members appointed by the Government for advice during the course of enquiry on technical issues has been obtained. Similarly, queries were referred to as the government also. The Rules of Business of Government of Maharashtra, opinion given by the above authorities and the clarification given by the then Minister of Water Resources Department, the ex-officio Chairman of the VIDC, were taken into consideration along with the other evidence collected during the course of enquiry/ investigations. So also the reports of Nandkumar Wadnere Committee, H T Mendhegiri Committee and Dr Madhavrao Chitale Committee are referred for the allegations in the PILs, etc," the affidavit states.

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"As regards grant of sanctions to the liability of the tender cost, including that of updated cost, it is revealed during the course of enquiry/ investigation that I) only note-sheets for grant of liability of the tender cost were sent to the Chairman of the Corporation by the Executive Director of the VIDC. In most of the cases, the Executive Director has accorded permission to the updated cost of the tender work, being within 5 per cent of updated tender cost, as he is empowered to accept the tender up to 5 per cent above the cost. The proposals for acceptance of the liability for the entire tender cost were being submitted to the Chairman with the recommendation of the Executive Director. In some cases, the recommendations were also given by the Principal Secretary of the Water Resources Department, who is ex-officio Managing Director of the Corporation. But neither the Executive Director nor the Managing Director have ever given negative remarks on note-sheets for the same. There is no evidence on record to say that the Secretary of the Department had briefed the Minister of Water Resources Department about not accepting the liability of the tender work," it also states.

It further goes on to say, "as regard grant of Mobilization Advance to the contractor despite there was no mention of the same in the tender booklet, it is revealed that i) Mobilization Advance is different from the tendering process. It is granted to the contractor of the VIDC under Section 19(2) (i) of the VIDC Act, 1997. The section empowers the corporation to grant advances to the contractors in the interest of work, on the request of contractors, under separate agreement, with interest, with proper security of re-payment, etc. The contractors have repaid all the amounts of Mobilization Advance with interest. As such, there is no financial loss caused to the Government and since the contractor has repaid the entire amount of Mobilization Advance with interest at the rate of Prime Lending Rate + 0.2 per cent, it cannot be said that the contractor was benefited."

"Similarly, the Water Resources Department through its letters dated 10.9.2018 and 11.6.2019 had clarified that there is no loss to the Government due to grant of Mobilization Advance. It has also pointed out that since the Mobilization Advance is not connected with the tendering process, three is no mention in the tender booklet about 'Mobilization Advance' whether it will be granted or will not be granted. It is revealed during the enquiry that the Central Vigilance Compression has prohibited from mentioning about the grant of Mobilization Advance. The Chairman of the VIDC has acted in line with the then prevailing policy of the Corporation and in accordance with the proposals put up before him by the Executive Directors or Managing Directors of the VIDC."

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Finally, the affidavit also noted that the Government of Maharashtra vide its letter dated 10.9.2018 has clarified that it cannot be said that there was any irregularity in the grant of Revised Administrative Approvals (RAA).

Nothing adverse regarding money trail linkages had been noticed so far, neither documentary evidence nor oral evidence could be gathered during the course of enquiry so far in this regard," the affidavit also stated.

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