KOCHI: Former PWD secretary TO Sooraj on Tuesday told the High Court that it was the then Public Works minister, VK Ebrahim Kunju, who accorded sanction for the release of an interest-free mobilisation advance of Rs 8.25 crore to the contracting company for constructing Palarivattom flyover. Sooraj made the revelation in his bail petition filed before the court.
The Vigilance and Anti- Corruption Bureau alleged that though there was no provision in the agreement executed between the contractor and Kerala Roads and Bridges Development Corporation (RBDCK) for granting mobilisation advance, Sooraj ordered release of Rs 8.25 crore in advance payment. He had ordered the advance should be provided at a low interest rate of 7 per cent.
The VACB said as per the agreement between the contractor and RBDCK, the advance amount should be recovered at the rate of 30 per cent in every bill submitted by the contractor. But Sooraj directed to recover only 10 per cent of the advance from each bill, facilitating the contracting firm to keep 20 per cent of the amount. Refuting the allegations, Sooraj stated that the contractor had submitted an application to RBDCK to provide an advance for the uninterrupted work of the flyover.
The application was considered by the assistant secretary, deputy secretary and additional secretary, including a senior IAS officer, and forwarded to Sooraj. He endorsed it and forwarded it to Ebrahim Kunju for approval.
“The minister decided to accord sanction for releasing the advance and ordered to release Rs 8.25 crore without any interest. There was no direction in the minister’s order to charge interest on the advance amount,” submitted Sooraj.
However, Sooraj said he had ordered to charge interest and recover the entire advance amount from the first four bills submitted by the contractor. For a similar work at the Edappally flyover, Rs 25 crore was given as advance without interest. The Accountant General’s observation that if the amount was given as advance to somebody at the rate of 11 or 13 per cent, the profit would have been a huge amount, was without any basis. Sooraj was arrested on August 30 and remanded to judicial custody. Former AGM of KRBDC MT Thankachan also filed a bail petition before the court. The court sought the views of the VACB in both bail petitions.