Springing to the defence of Union minister Kiren Rijiju, Power Minister Piyush Goyal's ministry on Tuesday said payments to a contractor of power plant in Arunachal Pradesh were released even before the minister forwarded a representation for the same.
Dubbing allegation of Rijiju using his influence to clear bills as ‘unsubstantiated, false and baseless’, the ministry said the vigilance officer S C Verma, who alleged corruption in the construction of two dams for NEEPCO’s 600 MW Kameng Hydro Electric Project in Arunachal Pradesh, had himself authorised release of substantial payments to the contractor.
The ministry in a statement said Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju had on November 9 last year forwarded a representation of local inhabitants of his constituency, complaining about the stoppage of payments to the sub-contractor of Patel Engineering Ltd for transportation of boulders/sand.
‘At no point did Shri Rijiju recommend that payment be released but only requested that ‘kindly get this petition considered in your ministry sympathetically on priority’,’ it said making public the copy of the letter.
But as much as 60 per cent of the payment due to PEL was released on November 4, 2015, on instruction of Verma, much before the letter of Rijiju.
‘Hence, the letter written by Hon’ble MoS Home Affairs has no bearing on any payments released by NEEPCO as the payment had already been released before his letter under authorisation of Shri Verma,’ the statement said.
NEEPCO, it said, is a Mini Ratna PSU and the government does not interfere in the operational matters of PSUs.
‘No instructions or directions by the government were given to NEEPCO at any time for making any payments. Thus, the allegations made are baseless, totally false and seem to be motivated by the charge-sheet issued against an officer for violation of CVC instructions and service conduct rules,’ it said.
Giving details, the power ministry said Verma was appointed as CVO to NEEPCO on October 8, 2014 and transferred on July 4, 2016 to the Central Reserve Police Force. He was chargesheeted on May 9, 2016 for ‘not performing his duties’ and staying away from NEEPCO headquarters Shillong for 310 days out of his 18-month tenure ‘without intimating the authorities or submitting any tour reports’.
‘After being relieved of his duties on July 5, 2016, he sent 10 back dated reports to the ministry of power which were received between July 18, 2016 to July 25, 2016,’ the ministry said in the statement.
He also retained some official files in his personal custody and did not hand them over at the time of relinquishing his charge, it alleged.
The ministry said the project work was awarded to the contractor in question, Patel Engineering Ltd (PEL) in December 2004, much before the National Democratic Alliance government took charge.
Work for transportation of boulders/ sand was awarded to them in 2012 and executed from December, 2012 to July, 2015, for which payment was made to them from time to time.
‘In July 2015, Verma visited the site and initiated an investigation and stopped all payments due to which the work at site was affected. On examination of the record, it has been found that, Verma himself authorised on October 19, 2015, ad hoc payment of 60 per cent of the billed amount and subsequently himself further authorised the provisional payment of 80 per cent of the billed amount vide letter dated February 3, 2016,’ it said.