Rs 2.70 cr misappropriation of funds in bridge construction near Udhampur

Financially closed, but project physically still incomplete
Govt seeks details from CEs Kashmir, Jammu on all such projects
Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, Oct 16: The UT Administration under Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha has taken serious note of the misappropriation of over Rs 2.70 crores in the construction of a bridge on Himbra Nallah in Krimachi-Mansar area, under R&B Division Udhampur and directed the Chief Engineers Kashmir and Jammu to furnish detail of all such projects in each R&B Division which have been financially closed but physically still lying incomplete on ground.
In a letter written recently to the Chief Engineers PW(R&B), Kashmir and Jammu by the concerned Administrative Department, it has been clearly asked to the Chief Engineer, R&B Jammu Ashok Kikloo and Chief Engineer Kashmir, Showkat Jeelani to furnish details of all such projects in both the regions, which are financially details closed but physically incomplete on ground, along with Detailed Project Report (DPR) cost, allotted cost, date of start and year- wise detail of funds received/ utilized. They have been strictly asked to furnish this report before October 18, 2020.
The Administration department which earlier initiated a preliminary inquiry into Himbra bridge, divulged that funds to the tune of Rs 2.70 crore have been misappropriated on the construction of 60 mts span bridge over Birwan on Krimachi Mansar-Himbra village road in Udhampur R&B Division. During inquiry, it surfaced that the work on the project was approved for an amount of Rs 3.95 crore and the complete amount was released to the then Executive Engineer, R&B Division Udhampur during 2015.
During probe, it was further established that against Rs 3.95 crore drawn from the Treasury, the contractor was paid Rs 1.25 crore against the allotted cost while, there is no clue about remaining Rs 2.70 crores. It appears that the balance funds have been spent on clearing the liabilities of other works through misappropriation or book adjustment.
Interestingly, the funds have been shown as consumed but still this bridge is incomplete. Nearly, 700 mts approach roads on both side have been abandoned on the Himbra bridge for the last three years and a population of over 15,000 has been deprived of this benefit, sources said .
They further revealed that the work on this bridge was started during 2015-16 when Utter Kumar was the Executive Engineer R&B Udhampur. Thereafter, five Executive Engineers- Rajesh Kumar, Mohd Abdullah, PK Phonsa, Ajay Kumar Raju, Pawan Kumar Gupta and Girdhari Lal (present), held the post besides three SEs (Udhampur Circle), but they all failed to make recovery or recommend the case to the Chief Engineer or Government for detailed inquiry or for holding Vigilance probe.
“The Administrative Department now observed that there can be a number of such cases where the works have been financially closed but physically left incomplete or halfway and there is every possibility that misappropriation/ diversion of funds may have occurred in such projects,” the sources added.
Former MLA, Udhampur, Balwant Singh Mankotia when contacted said that this bridge was sanctioned on popular public demand during his period as MLA near Krimachi Mansar but the work was started during 2015. Earlier, there was a foot bridge over the Nallah and people of over 7-8 villages were to be benefitted with it.
He said though as per department’s claim, the bridge is complete but there is no approach road on both sides. Some works have also been left out by the agency. The concerned officials claim to have consumed all the funds. But the public is still deprived of the bridge facility. He demanded high level probe into the matter and strict action against concerned officers. The ex-MLA said that a single X-En was made scapegoat in this episode, but the real culprits are being shielded.
Chief Engineer, R&B Jammu, Ashok Kikloo when contacted said that in connection with the Himbra Nallah bridge project issue in Udhampur, the Administrative department had initiated a preliminary inquiry, which stands submitted to Govt. Kikloo claimed that he was not aware of the outcome of that inquiry.
Regarding letter of the Administrative department seeking details of such projects which have been financially closed in many R&B Divisions but still physically incomplete on ground, the Chief Engineer said, he has directed all the SEs of R&B Circles in Jammu region to furnish detail in time bound manner.
“The exercise has been started and detail is being sought from various R&B Divisions regarding such projects. The report will be submitted to the Government within a day or two,” the Chief Engineer maintained.
Chief Engineer, R&B Kashmir, Showkat Jeelani said that on the letter of Administrative Department, the work has been started promptly. All the Executive Engineers of R&B Divisions in Kashmir have been asked to send detail of such projects and the same will be submitted to the Administrative Secretary before Oct 18, Jeelani added.