Multi-crore scam of solar lights in S&T Deptt

GoI guidelines changed for monetary benefits

Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR, Oct 12: A multi-crore scam has surfaced in Science and Technology Department where guidelines of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India (GoI), have been illegally changed to procure lights and equipment worth over Rs 200 crore for solar power.
Under the Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP), the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India (GoI), sanctioned over Rs 200 crore for the Solar Street Lighting System (SSLS), Solar Home Systems Model-II and installation of roof top solar power plants.
The contract for the supply of Solar Home Systems was given to M/s Maharishi Solar Technology (P) Limited while Solar Street Lighting System (SSLS) contract was given to M/s Social Engineering Dehradun and the roof top solar power plants were given to few more companies against the guidelines of the Ministry.
Under the Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP), the MNRE, GOI (vide no 32/12/ 2016-17/ PVSE (Part 2) dated 30-06-2016) sanctioned 19, 013 Solar Street Lighting System (SSLS) at a unit rate of Rs 16, 000 for Jammu and Kashmir. The purchase order (No: ST/EDA/27/ SHL-LED/26/ 2016/ 2085-91dated 03-07-2017) was given to M/s Social Engineering Dehradun for the supply of 20,013 Solar Street Lighting System (SSLS) at a unit rate of Rs 12,780.
The Jammu and Kashmir Energy Development Agency, Science and Technology Department placed Letter of Intent (No: ST/EDA/ 27/ SHL-LED/ 2017-II/2029-30 dated 22-06-2017)in favour of M/s Maharishi Solar Technology (P) Limited for supply and maintenance of 84, 000 Solar Home Systems model-II for Rs 4, 200 and model-IV Rs 6700 per system. Later an order (No: ST/EDA/27/SHL-LED/2017-II/2149-55 dated 05-07-2017) for the purchase of 30, 000 Solar Home Systems model-IV was placed before the company for Rs 6700 per system. However, the MNRE had given sanction for the purchase of 84,000 SHS model only and model-IV was purchased at higher rates to benefit the M/s Maharishi Solar Technology (P) Limited.
The tenders for the purchase of the Solar Home Systems and Solar Street Lighting System were issued thrice to favour the two companies.
The first round of tenders were floated by JAKEDA in the month of November 2016. One tender (Notice: ST/EDA/SHL-LED /27/2016, due dated: 10-12-2016) was for supply of 50,000 Solar Systems Model-II amounting to an estimated cost of Rs 26.00 crores and another one (under No:ST/EDA/SSL-LED/26/2016 due Dated:10-12-2016) was for supply of 20,013 Solar Street Lighting Systems for an estimated cost of Rs. 28.00 crores.
Despite an encouraging response, the JAKEDA didn’t open the tenders and even the technical evaluation of the bids was not carried out. Sources said that this was done as the M/s Maharishi Solar Technology Pvt. Ltd was not qualifying in the tendering process because the company had furnished the Test Report of Model-IV of solar home system while the tender was issued for Model-II.
Fearing the disqualification of the supplier, the department cancelled the whole process and went for fresh tendering and this was done as per the directions of the then Minister who passed on such instructions officially (vide his office endorsement No: PS/HM/S&T/95, Dated: 29-12-2016) and are referred in tender cancelling notice issued by CEO JKEDA (vide Order No. 10-EDA of 2017 dated: 16-01-2017).
After cancellation of tenders, second round of tenders were floated by the JAKEDA in January 2017 (under Tender Notice No: ST/EDA/SHL-LED /27/2016/191 due dated:15-02-2017) for supply of 50,000 Solar Systems Model-IV amounting to an estimated cost of around Rs 46 crores and other one under ST/EDA/SSL/-LED/26/2016/192 dated: 15-02-2017 for supply of 20,013 No’s of Solar Street Lighting Systems for an estimated cost of Rs. 28 crores.
While inviting fresh bids for solar home systems, several changes were made in the Pre-Qualification Criteria, which is not permissible under standing rules and relevant guidelines of Central Vigilance Commission.
Sources said that insertion of Home System Model-IV instead of earlier Model-II was made to suit the requirements of M/s Maharishi Solar, who was not qualifying as per earlier conditions. However, the detailed project report submitted to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, HLS Module-II was proposed by JAKEDA and subsequently in the sanction order Dated: 29-02-2016 funds were allocated as per Model -II only and not Model -IV.
Another condition in respect of Work Experience was also modified. In the earlier tender, work experience period was fixed from 01-04-2013 to 31-03-2016, but in second tender it was modified and was kept 01-04-2011 to 31-03-2016 which was suiting the requirement of M/s Mahareshi who otherwise could not have qualified as per the original condition.
Similarly in respect of Solar Street Light, tender was floated (vide No:ST/EDA/SSL-LED /26/2016/192, Due Dated:15-02-2017) for supply of 20,013 Sloar Street lights, estimated at the cost of Rs. 28.00 crores. The changes in the Pre-qualification Criteria were made to suit the favourite party. Work experience was changed from 6000 to 5000 units which were suiting the requirements of another favourite bidder M/s Social Engineering Dehradun. Another condition in respect of work experience was also changed from its earlier period of 31-04-2013 – 31-03-2016 to 01-04-2011- 31-12-2016.
In response to the tenders for supply of Solar Home Systems, 5 bidders participated and only 2 qualified including M/s Maharishi Solar Technology and in respect of Solar Street Lights Tender 7 bidder participated and three qualified including M/s Social Engineering evaluation.
To finalize the contracts a meeting of Purchase Committee was held on 11-04-2017 under the chairmanship Comm/Secy. The Committee approved the rate for supply of SSL @Rs. 13,200 per unit in favour of M/S Social Engineers and CEO JKEDA was authorized to place purchase order with the firm.
In respect of Solar Home Lights, sources said that the Minister tried his best to allot the contract to Mahareshi , despite of exorbitant rates, and exerted pressure on the Purchase Committee members, but could not succeed as then Chief Engineer Procurement, PDD Jammu, didn’t succumb to the pressure of then Minister and raised objections observing that the L-1 rates of Rs. 9757/- per unit quoted by M/s Maharishi are almost double as compared to the rates prevalent in other states/agencies. Subsequently JAKEDA purchase committee was forced to cancel the tender of Home Lights and call for fresh tender.
Despite inordinate delay and confusions fresh tender notices were issued third time vide notice No: ST/EDA/SSL-LED/26/2016-II/1446 due on 22/05/2017 for supply of 20013 SSLs at estimated cost of Rs 28 crore and vide NIT No: ST/EDA/SHS-LED/27/2016-II/1499 due on 22/05/2017 for supply of 30,000 Model-IV and 54000 Model-II units at the estimated cost of about Rs 46 crore.
The work experience for the tenders issued third time for the supply of SSLs was reduced to 2500 from earlier tender which was 5000 for solar street lights. This was done to suit the M/s Social Engineers who had indicated in his earlier response of having work experience of 5460. But on scrutiny it was discovered that there was ambiguity in respect of his experience and he was having the experience of supplying only 3029 of SSL and was not qualifying as per earlier condition. The norms set by MNRE (sanctioned dated 30th June 2016) for work experience of 5 years was reduced to 3 years and financial criteria was also modified /relaxed from Rs 25 crore to Rs 8 crore to favour M/s Social Engineers.
And again the work experience for the tenders issued third time for the supply of SHS was changed from 15,000 units to 10,000 units and at the same time the supply order was increased from 55,000 to 84,000 to favour the M/s Maharishi Solar Technology (P) Limited. The time period of work experience was also changed to favour the company so was the financial criteria from 30 percent in the last three years to around 5 percent for last three years.
And finally all the bidders in two contracts except M/s Social Engineers and M/s Maharishi Solar Technology (P) Limited for SSL and SHS respectively were disqualified and single tenders were issued to these two companies. Sources said for single tender either governing body of the JAKEDA or Cabinet is authorized to approve it (Government order No, 233 F of 2016 dated 07-11-2016). However, the Minister, CEO JAKEDA, Commissioner/ Secretary Science and Technology approved the file same day (21-06-2017)
And for the installation of roof top solar power plants, involving installation of 54MW, estimated cost of Rs 300 crore, the non-participant vendors, not having requisite experience as per the tender, were empanelled. These companies have been allotted the work of about 12MW capacity, in gross violation of rules. Sources said that most of the companies empanelled have hardly any experience in the supply/installation of solar plants and have indulged in supply of low rated modules/invertors and substandard material.
Sources said that the CEO JKEDA, PR Dhar, was specially elevated for conducting the fraud. In one year, he was elevated from Deputy CEO to Additional CEO and finally to the post of the CEO. Then CEO, Shafat Sultan, was removed from the post in March 2017 due to his involvement in a case which is under investigation with State Vigilance Organisation (under FIR No.10/2015 P/S VOK). Sultan was arrested, suspended and attached to the GAD while Dhar was elevated despite being accused in the same case and named in the FIR.
Not only this the agreement deed signed by the CEO JAKEDA, Science and Technology Department with M/s Social Engineering Dehradun on 4th of July 2017 and with M/s Maharishi Solar Technology (P) Limited on 5th July 2017 for supply of solar lights worth crores of rupees has Bilal Ahmad (Arizoo) son of Ghulam Mohidin (Sheikh) resident of Konibal Pampore and Shabir Ahmad Mir son of Abdul Gani Mir resident of Frestbal Pampore as witnesses representing both the companies. Bilal Ahmad was close aide of then Minister for last two decades and was also his PA.