16 PWD officials were trapped in 2014 in cases of corruption (photo: PWD logo)
In the past six months, the Maharashtra government has suspended about a hundred employees of the Public Works Department, allegedly one of the most corrupt departments in the state.
“We want to show zero tolerance to corruption in this department. So we have adopted a carrot and stick approach where we give plum postings to those who work hard and immediately suspend those embroiled in corruption,” said Chandrakant Patil, Public Works Minister.
According to the Indian Express, some of the employees suspended were found to be hand-in-glove with contractors, several were caught accepting bribes, while others were suspended for falsifying the account books.
Patil said that several employees also came under the scanner for splitting low-cost projects into multiple contracts in order to avoid the mandatory e-tendering process. E-tendering is compulsory for all projects that cost over Rs 3 lakh ($4,700).
“Many files dating back to the erstwhile Congress-NCP government were piled up, pending sanctions for departmental inquiries against engineers of the Public Works Department. Meanwhile, all these errant employees were continuing to work in their positions. We have cleared these files, and suspended the engineers involved,” the minister said.
Most recently, the PWD suspended Chief Architect Bipin Sankhe, Chief Engineer Anil Baliram Gaikwad and Superintending Engineer Sanjay Solankhi for their alleged involvement in the Maharashtra Sadan scandal involving Chhagan Bhujbal, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former PWD minister.
The suspension came a day after the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) registered a criminal case against Bhujbal, naming the three PWD employees in the First Information Report (FIR).
In February, the department had suspended 17 engineers, ordering departmental inquiries against them: 13 were suspended for their alleged role in the disappearance of files later recovered at the PWD guesthouse in Bandra, while the remaining four were suspended for allegedly attending a farewell party organised by a contractor for a retiring chief engineer.
According to ACB statistics, as many as 16 PWD officials were trapped last year in cases of corruption. Also in 2014, six PWD employees were investigated for allegedly amassing disproportionate assets worth Rs 11.34 crore ($1.8 million).
The PWD reportedly has the most number of officers under the scanner for disproportionate assets in 2013, totalling Rs 17.87 crore ($2.8 million).
Officers in this department are the richest among all government sectors in the state when it comes to illegitimate income, says the state’s ACB.
The bureau recently nabbed engineer Jagdish Wagh for allegedly accepting a bribe on behalf of executive engineer Satish Chikhlikar from the Nashik PWD office.
Wagh was trapped and arrested in April while allegedly accepting Rs 22,000 ($343) from a contractor. Chikhlikar had allegedly demanded 6 per cent commission for clearing a Rs 3.6 lakh ($5,600) bill for a road project and asked the contractor to hand over the bribe to Wagh. But the contractor then approached the ACB, who laid a trap for Wagh.
The ACB has since found that Chikhlikar’s total assets amount to Rs 14.28 crore ($2.2 million).