The Siddaramaiah government has appointed retired High Court Justice H.N. Nagamohan Das to probe the “40 per cent commission” allegation made by the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association against the previous BJP government. The “40 per cent sarkar” allegation against the Basavaraj Bommai government was a major poll plank for the Congress party in the May 10 Assembly elections.
The one-man committee will probe into the allegations levelled by the contractors’ association in its letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then chief minister Bommai and then Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah, written between July 2021 and April 2022, according to the order issued by the public works department.
D Kempanna, president of the Association had alleged that the contractors had had to pay a bribe equivalent to 40 per cent of the total project cost. He had also accused that the system was favouring outside contractors by bundling the works.
While the report is to be submitted within 30 days, the committee will investigate the works carried out in five major departments – public works, water resources, urban development rural development and panchayat raj and minor irrigation.
Interestingly, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Contractors’ Association had made similar accusations against Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar, who is also the Bengaluru development minister.
In a press meet, the contractors had alleged that bills worth Rs 2,700 crore was pending for the past 26 months.
In a letter written to Governor Thawarchand Gehlot the contractors had alleged that after the Congress government came to power, all the bills had been withheld. Many contractors had complained that the BBMP had been refusing to release payments and 10-15 per cent commission was being demanded on behalf of DCM to clear the pending bills.
BBMP Contractors’ Association president K.T. Manjunath however, made a U-turn on the claim. “We have not made any allegation against anybody. Some members got emotional and made some comments. We will continue our fight till we get our bills paid,” said Manjunath.
Meanwhile, the the Urban Development Department (UDD) has formed four different committees to probe alleged irregularities in the BBMP between 2019-20 to 2022-23 under the previous BJP government.
“Payment will be released to the contractors who have done the work. But it will be done after the probe,” said Shivakumar, adding that there had been instances of some contractors raising fake bills without carrying out any work.
While, the four-member committee to probe irregularities in solid waste management is being headed by IAS officer Ujwal Kumar Ghosh, IAS officer Amlan Aditya Biswas will lead the six-member team to examine major road works and permission granted to lay fibre-optic cables. A four-member committee headed by Dr P.C. Jaffer will look into allegations of irregularities in major storm water drains and design approval in the town planning department.
A five-member committee led by Dr Vishal R. will probe into allegations of corruption in lake development, smart city projects and ward-level work. The committees will also see what the original work orders were and how they were executed, besides the cost escalation aspects.