Swindling of Jammu Smart City Project funds through wasteful expenditures by Deptt of Fisheries

Nishikant Khajuria
JAMMU, July 24: Jammu Smart City Project funds worth lakhs of rupees were allegedly swindled in the name of DPR/Consultancy for constructing an Underwater Walk-Through Tunnel Aquarium Section at Bagh-e-Bahu Jammu without even selecting modal of the multi-crore project, which remained on papers only.
To get a component of the funds released and fiddle the same, procedures were cut short and norms were thrown to wind by the select group of top officers, who acted in a hush-hush manner and caused wasteful expenditure of public money to benefit an ineligible firm for the reasons best known to the persons at the helm of affairs
In reverse to the normal procedure, Detailed Project Report was prepared on the basis of the amount assured by the Jammu Smart City Ltd while drawing of the project was vetted without technical sanction of the DPR and thereafter an amount of Rs 15 lakh was also released to the selected firm.
An officer of the rank of Executive Engineer was allegedly manipulated to join the Fisheries Department for the particular purpose only. Bypassing all Government rules and regulation, he was transferred from PWD to the Department of Fisheries against a non-existent available post.
The entire episode revolves around proposed construction of 2nd Phase Oceanarium (sea world) of Aquarium cum Awareness Centre at Bagh-e-Bahu Jammu under Jammu Smart City Project for which Rs 18 crores were assured to be made available by the Jammu Smart City Ltd with completion date of March 2023.
On verbal instructions of then Principal Secretary Animal and Sheep Husbandry, Naveen Choudhary, Director, Department of Fisheries Jammu submitted a proposal regarding construction of 2nd Phase Oceanarium (sea world) of Aquarium cum Awareness Centre at Bagh-e-Bahu Jammu under Jammu Smart City Project to the tune of Rs 70 lakh.
Vide communication number CEO/Smart City/2021-22/3291-93, dated 05-11-2021, CEO Jammu Smart City, Hitesh Gupta replied to the Director Fisheries that the JSCL (Jammu Smart City Ltd) can provide the funds for construction of Underwater Walk-Through Tunnel Aquarium to the tune of Rs 18 cores only and requested the latter to intimate his acceptance for the same besides submitting the DPR so that funds can be approved by Board of Director of JSCL.
Excited over the JSCL assurance to provide Rs 18 crores for the project, the Department of Fisheries acted in a hush- hush manner and invited tender for preparation of DPR /Consultancy without calling for Expression of Interest (EOI) to finalize magnitude, scope and resemblance with the site and finalization of the concept of the project by the competent authority i. e Department of Animal/ Sheep Husbandry and Fisheries in accordance with the committee of high rank officers as per the nature of work which was first of its kind in Northern India.
Without approval of any aquarium concept from the competent authority, the e- tender (E-NIT No41of 2021-22) was issued by the office of Senior Aquaculture Engineer (Xen) Fisheries Department, Srinagar, according to which the bidding agency should have done similar nature of works and experience certificate in such type of consultancy work was required to be submitted through online mode.
For opening the invited bids, the Executive Engineer framed a committee of officers who were never been part of any such panel for civil work tenders and had no expertise in the procedure matters. The drawing branch, which deals with such tenders, was not made a part of the panel and the concerned AEE, who was the executive head of works in Jammu was also not included in the committee.
In the bidding, a Mumbai based firm ‘Madover Fish India Pvt Ltd’ was categorized as lowest one and allotted the job work of preparing DPR/ consultancy for construction of 2nd Phase Oceanarium (Sea World) of Aquarium cum Awareness Centre at Bagh-e-Bahu Jammu and other allied works at the cost of Rs 30 lakh. Within days of allotment of work, Madover Fish India Pvt Ltd provided , produced eight copies of DPR to the Department notwithstanding critical nature of the project.
Even as the DPR was not approved and sanction by the competent authority (Administrative Department), an amount of Rs 15 lakh was released to the contractor (Madover Fish India Pvt Ltd) in first week of May allegedly on the instruction of top authorities for the reasons best known to them
What to talk of approval and Technical Sanction, documentary evidences establish that even Walkover Presentation of the DPR for Oceanarium before the initial payment of 20 percent to the firm as per condition of agreement was not made when 50 percent (Rs 15 lakh) payment was released.
As per communication number SAE/D/2021-22/45-48, dated 23-04-2022 from Sr Aquaculture Engineer (Xen) Fisheries Department, Srinagar as second reminder to the Director Fisheries for Walkthrough Presentation: “It is also pertinent to mention here that Administrative Approval/Technical vetting of the project have not been endorsed to this office so far. It is, as such requested that the date and venue may be communicated and the Technical Vetting and Administrative Approval may kindly be endorsed, as the firm is pressing for release of payment.”
Sources alleged that the agency selected for the DPR was not eligible for the same as it had no expertise as consultancy for such nature of work. It was dealing in the business of making small residential and hotel aquarium tubes only but was allegedly favoured because of close links with a senior IAS officer and half of the consultancy amount was paid to the firm in hush- hush manner much before the project was to be technically sanctioned and accepted by the Government, sources added.
Soon after the payment was released, the Xen posted for the purpose was also got transferred from the Fisheries Department where he was sent on a non-existent available post and whose posting to the department was stayed by the Central Administrative Tribunal.
Hence, Rs 15 lakh of Jammu Smart City Project were allegedly swindled in the name of a Jammu Smart City project, which was not even technically approved and sanctioned. And now after wasteful expenditure of Rs 15 lakh, sources said that the department is exploring the possibilities of getting the project executed from some other agency.