BHUBANESWAR: Delay of a year and a half is not the only thing ailing the ongoing bridge construction over river Kathajodi. It’s the Works Department’s handling of the crucial project - planned to shorten the distance between Cuttack and Bhubaneswar - which is baffling.
Even as the 2.4 km three-lane bridge hangs fire, the Department’s stand has been, at best, misleading. To a recent RTI query, the Department stated that the change in design of the bridge’s superstructure has not exceeded the agreement amount but the project’s deviation statement, prepared by the Department itself, states to the contrary.
As per the agreement, the cost of the superstructure basing on the RCC girder design was estimated at `63.44 crore. However, the change in design to PSC girder has been pegged at `73.89 crore, recording a raise of `10.5 crore. This deviation, interestingly, has been approved by the Works Department itself.
Incidentally, the foundation level works were estimated in the agreement at `29 crore whereas actually after work, the deviation showed a saving of `6 crore. Despite the saving in the foundation, the overall cost till July, according to the deviation statement, stood at `105.52 crore as against the agreement of `94.49 crore which is an escalation of over `11 crore. The Department is well aware of the cost escalation but its RTI response states to the contrary.
That is not all. The Department also stated that no time extension to a specific date has been sanctioned to the bridge which will save huge national time of the users as well as that of the State. Yet, it has approved the cost escalation which is a violation of Odisha Public Works Department Code. The code clearly states that without provisional sanction of the extension of time, no payment or price escalation can be made. The HES Infra Pvt Limited, which is executing the bridge project, has already been sanctioned `4 crore as price escalation in the first phase and it has submitted claims for another `5 crore.
The big poser, however, remains: Is the top brass of Works Department not aware of the changing facts? Or has it turned a blind eye?
The executing agency, while submitting proposal for change in design of bridge’s superstructure works in November 2013, had submitted an undertaking that it would carry out work without any additional burden to the State Government.
However, going by the current pace of work, which has pegged the project back by a year and a half, cost of the Kathajodi bridge project could run well close to `150 crore. The Works Department’s top brass has gone on record stating that the work is expected to be completed by December 2016. The project had commenced on March 7, 2011 and was expected to be completed by April, 2014.