Gomti river front project irregularities: CBI registers second FIR, 189 officials booked

In the present FIR, in which 16 officials, including chief engineers, and 173 contractors are accused, the CBI has alleged that 30 notices inviting tenders have come under the scanner.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

NEW DELHI: The CBI has booked 189 officials and contractors in its second FIR related to irregularities in the Rs 1,437-crore Gomti river front development project in Lucknow, which was undertaken during the tenure of the previous Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh, officials said on Monday.

Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav was the chief minister then. After registering the fresh FIR on Friday, following a preliminary inquiry, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday carried out searches at 42 locations spread across 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh, Alwar in Rajasthan and Kolkata in West Bengal, they said.

The officials said that the operation, which started early in the morning, is going on and it may be expanded during the course of the day. This is the second FIR related to the project by the CBI. An earlier FIR has already covered work orders worth over Rs 1,031 crore.

In the present FIR, in which 16 officials, including chief engineers, and 173 contractors are accused, the CBI has alleged that 30 notices inviting tenders have come under the scanner. Out of these, only five were published in newspapers while the remaining 25 forged letters were sent to the Department of Information and Publication to show compliance, it alleged.

The agency has listed several similar irregularities, including award of tender on the basis of forged documents and forgery in publication of notices inviting tender, according to the present FIR.

The preliminary inquiry also showed that 27 work orders each over Rs 1 lakh, including one for import of an international standard musical fountain, worth over 55.95 lakh Euros (Rs 49.3 crore at the present exchange rate), from the Aquatique Show in Strasbourg, France, were issued without any tender, it alleged.

The CBI said that this was in violation of government orders which stipulate that no order of above Rs 1 lakh can be awarded without an tender. The quotation notice for the fountain was issued by Akhil Raman, the then superintendent engineer, and it was genuinely published, it said.

"However, prior to issuance of quotation notice a normal tendering process notice was shown by Raman. This notice was not published and forged receipt letter, release order and copies of newspaper clippings were placed in the records," an official said.

The estimate was approved on the basis quotations in 2016. Roop Singh Yadav, another the then superintendent engineer, directly wrote to the French company for signing the contract. He recommended for issuance of supply order for the company, the CBI alleged.

SN Sharma, the then chief engineer, sought prior permission to import the material on August 27, 2016, and issued supply order after four days without obtaining prior permission, it alleged. The CBI has alleged that Sharma, Raman and Yadav abused their official position and issued the supply order on quotation basis instead of tender basis giving undue benefit to Aquatique Show.

In Uttar Pradesh's Bulandshahr district, CBI sleuths raided the residence of contractor Rakesh Bhati in connection with the case, officials said. Bhati is also a member of the Congress unit in Uttar Pradesh. In the 2022 UP assembly elections, the Samajwadi Party, the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party, the Congress, among others, will try to wrest the state from the BJP.

Uttar Pradesh Minister Sidharth Nath Singh said that CBI searches indicate to the misdeeds of the previous Akhilesh Yadav government. "We had requested the CBI earlier to speed up its probe in such scams.

The CBI is a central agency and working in its style. In the Gomti river front scam, the searches are on at places of 16 engineers and 173 contractors," the minister said when asked about it by reporters here in Lucknow.

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