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Policy | For the education sector, the budget offers a mixed bag

Date: 15-07-2019
Subject: Policy | For the education sector, the budget offers a mixed bag
CHENNAI: How does a Rs 9.6-lakh project turn into a Rs 1-crore scheme? The Kayalpattinam municipal authorities have shown the way: Commit forgery, falsify records, tamper with municipal resolution and alter figures on paper. That is how they converted a road project worth Rs 9.6 lakh into one for Rs 1 crore. scam , in the absence of an elected council, the change went totally unnoticed and unchallenged, until, of course, an RTI query bug.

It all started with a resolution number 1414 dated July 25, 2017. It was a project to lay 1-km Baaz Nagar Road for Rs 9.6 lakh using general funds. Several such projects about roads that were damaged after laying water pipelines were sanctioned. Some projects had even started. However, in October, after a Tamil Nadu Urban Road Infrastructure Project (TURIP) meeting in Chennai, this particular resolution was replaced with a new one without any discussion or notice. A newly printed piece of paper was pasted on the original resolution, changing both names of the road and the project outlay, which became 10-times bigger than the originally finalised sum. Page number 154 of the minutes book, which is a sacrosanct municipal document, now stood changed though the resolution number remained 1414. 

Instead of just Baaz Nagar Road, the ‘altered’ project showed five roads – Appapalli Street, Solukar Street, Magdoom Street, North Sadukai Street, and Cheppukodaichan Street – to be laid at a cost of Rs 1 crore for a length of 1.5km. 

It came to light when Mohamed Salihu, secretary of Mass Empowerment and Guidance Association, noticed that the municipality was laying paver block roads instead of a tar road in his area. When he sought details, he was told that the project was sanctioned under TURIP after resolution 1414 was passed. But when he filed RTI, he was given the older resolution that only mentioned Baaz road. “I thought, it was a technical error. By April, 2018, we realised there was a bigger scam here as the work order issued to the contractor had a different resolution and the technical sanction awarded by the commissioner of municipal administration was a different resolution. When we checked the minutes book, we realised, officials had pre-dated a new resolution and replaced the older one which is also a crime,” he said. 

Currently, the municipality’s special officer is the municipal engineer Suresh said it was a clerical error and these activists were motivated. “There is no monetary loss to anyone and we have just revised the resolution that was passed earlier. There were some clerical errors that were changed but no forgery took place,” he said. The present commissioner of municipal administration, D Karthikeyan also did not respond to calls. 

A D Shankar Ganesh, a congress councillor of Rajapalayam said this was just one such incident that has come out through RTI. “This is the case everywhere in Tamil Nadu. As per section 25 of Tamil Nadu municipalities act, no resolution of the Council shall be modified or cancelled within three months after the passing thereof except at a meeting specially convened in that behalf and by a resolution of the Council supported by not less than one-half of the sanctioned number of members. Minutes of the proceedings at each meeting of the Council shall be drawn up and entered in a book to be kept for that purpose. And the copy of the minutes should be sent to the collector, director of municipal administration and affixed on the notice board.” 

Former corporation mayor Ma Subramanian said it was not just in municipalities but such forgeries were taking place in corporation as well. “In the absence of the council, the bureaucrats and the local ministers collude into several forgery and siphon of public money in the name of projects,” he said.

The activists have sent representations to the CMA, MAWS secretary and Ombudsman in April, this year but there has been no action. The road project has not taken off as well due to protests against paver block roads. 

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com 

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