The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) that suffered a serious loss of face following a World Bank report, which blew the lid on corruption in highway construction projects, has come out with a clumsy defence to justify its action.
The World Bank investigation report dated March 1, had revealed financial bungling by the private contractors in the `9,500 crore Lucknow-Muzaffarpur National Highway project, the Grand Trunk Road Improvement Project for UP, Bihar and Jharkhand, and the Third National Highways Project for strengthening of NH-2 in UP, Bihar and Jharkhand.
And the report had clearly stated that a sum of around Rs 54 Crore was allegedly extracted as advance by the contractors in connivance with the NHAI officials by submitting forged bills during the period of investigation.
The NHAI, however, rubbished it by saying that these issues were dealt with at the site itself and not at its headquarters. And the NHAI response appeared to be part of a cover up after the expose.
“Due precautions and care were taken by NHAI in processing of secured advance. The submission of allegedly forged and false invoices by the contractor, if any, is therefore attributed to the contractor and not to the NHAI,” the authority said in a letter dated April 18.
The World Bank probe further stated that crores of rupees meant for laying the road was paid to the NHAI officials for favouring the private contractors.
“The contractor made cash payments of `67 lakh to supervision consultant staff, NHAI officials to influence their action in a WB-9 project in Bihar.
Another cash payment of `1.15 crore was made to NHAI officials in WB-10 and WB 12 Project in Bihar,” it said.