BHUBANESWAR: Even as the Odisha Government proclaims focus on establishing seamless connectivity in the Twin City, a vital bridge over river Kathjodi that would shorten the distance between Cuttack and Bhubaneswar is hanging fire.
The bridge, which would reduce physical distance between the two cities by a whopping 10 km, was targeted to be completed by 2014. But fall 2016, it is yet to see the light of day. Time overrun apart, the Nabard-funded bridge project’s cost has now shot to Rs 125 crore but it is still nowhere near completion and the Works department top bosses are clueless.
What is appalling is that the Works department has turned a blind eye to the inordinate delay by Hyderabad-based contractor HES Infra Pvt Ltd in completing the signature project of the State Government for which Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had laid the foundation stone in February 2011.
Unlike projects which necessitate statutory clearances and require shifting of human settlements, the 2.4 km three-lane bridge faced no hindrance but it has been given one extension too many for reasons best known to the department.
About eight months before its contract was to close, in November 2013, HES Infra Pvt Ltd had submitted a proposal seeking a change in design as it wanted to execute the superstructure work by replacing the RCC cast-in-situ girder by pre-cast girders. It had given an undertaking that the deviation would entail no extra cost and save nearly 22 months.
The proposal was given a go-ahead by the Works department which had earlier issued a series of communications to the contractor for delay in executing the project. A failure to stick to the tender agreement for such a high-profile project should have ideally attracted penalty and even black-listing but the department chose to overlook the same even as HES Infra submitted a revised cost estimate for the project at Rs 108.18 crore.
Not that the discrepancy was not noticed. In December 2013, the then Superintending Engineer of Cuttack (R&B) Circle pointed out that the agency __ despite being awarded an item rate contract and submitting an undertaking to complete the project without any additional cost __ has pegged the revised estimate at Rs 13.69 crore more than the original agreement value of Rs 94.49 crore. He sought a clarification but that too was overlooked.
With time overrun affecting such a crucial project being implemented right under the nose of the State administration, the executing agency has already been sanctioned Rs 4 crore as price escalation in the first phase and has submitted claims for another Rs 5 crore. The cost of the project is now expected to touch Rs 150 crore and the Government has to bear the additional outlay.
The million dollar question is if flagship projects of the State Government are executed in such a tardy manner by the Works department, one can imagine the plight of projects in the outlying areas of Odisha.