The Scandal Unfolds
Barely two months ahead of the assembly elections in the state, Rajasthan’s Jal Jeevan Mission scam has turned into a multi-crore fund embezzlement led by a fake tendering process.
Enforcement Directorate’s Findings
The seized documents peg the size of the scam at Rs 1,000 crore, but it can go to the tune of multiple hundred crores, said a top officer in the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Two companies with fake antecedents were awarded contracts for a Rs 900-crore project, of which they have claimed a bill for Rs 500 crore. Of the two owners, one has been picked up, while the other is absconding.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which seized Rs 2.5 crore and a 1-kg gold bar from the homes of a retired and serving government officer last week, has also recovered multiple digital and paper evidence indicative of a rigged bidding process.
The Implementing Authority
Rajasthan’s Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) is the implementing authority for the project to lay drinking water pipelines across districts. Speaking to Smartkhabrinews, Mahesh Joshi, Rajasthan’s PHED minister, however, said the case was initiated by the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in August and the ED has taken over. He further said that everything will come to the fore as the investigation progresses.
Fake Documents Validated by Another Set of Fakes
Two companies — Ganapati Tubewell Company and Shri Shyam Tubewell Company — owned by two businessmen, who are related, bagged the contract by producing fake and fabricated experience certificates, another senior ED official told News 18. The businessmen are alleged to be “close” to some ministers in the Rajasthan state cabinet, including Joshi and some senior bureaucrats, added the officer. Joshi, however, said that he did not carry the “burden” of this investigation. “I have not been summoned yet. But if they do, I have my documents ready and I will present my side to the investigators. I am not bothered by the allegations.”
Sources in the central agency said the state government continued with the companies despite several objections being raised and multiple complaints being registered with the department with the details of the companies in question. A preliminary inquiry was ordered by the department; however, it was wrapped up by producing another set of fabricated documents to remove the objections. Both the companies were not eligible for bidding; however, they were awarded the Rs 900-crore contracts, said the source.
A First Information Report (FIR) was registered with the ACB of the Rajasthan government on August 8 in connection with the Jal Jeevan Mission scam case. The allegations are related to irregularities in the tendering and work process, procurement of raw materials, and laying down of old pipelines. Questions were also raised about the depth of the pipe-laying work.