TamilNadu Minister SP Velumani to respond corruption allegations

Arappor Iyakkam had filed a petition with evidence of unfair practices and corruption in awarding Chennai and Coimbatore Corporation tenders by Minister for Municipal Administration SP Velumani.

Madras High Court, on Friday, directed the Tamil Nadu Minister for Municipal Administration SP Velumani to respond to the allegations of corruption leveled against him. The court’s direction was based on a petition filed by Arappor Iyakkam, a Chennai-based citizen activist and advocacy group.

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In the petition, the NGO had accused the minister of indulging in corruption and favoritism in awarding contracts pertaining to Coimbatore and Chennai Corporations, thereby violating the Tamil Nadu Tender Transparency Act 1998 and the provisions of Competition Act 2002.

The petition was heard by a division bench of the court, consisting of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and Rajamanickam on Friday who issued notices to the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) of Tamil Nadu, Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the minister. The court also ordered that the Municipal Administration Department, Chennai and Coimbatore Corporations to be added as respondents to the case and posted the case for January 23 for hearing.

The accusation pertains to the tenders awarded by the Coimbatore Corporation between 2014 and 2015. The NGO, in its petition, stated that in this period, only two bidders have been awarded contracts for civil works in the Corporation. “While there are scores of Registered contractors who had been awarded tenders in the same corporation earlier, the pattern noticed of only two bidders participating in most bids raises a strong suspicion that these tenders were prefixed and pre-decided,” read a portion of the petition.

According to Arappor Iyakkam, 188 tenders worth Rs 67 crore was awarded to a syndicate of six contractors owned and operated by SP Velumani.

In Chennai Corporation, the NGO stated that Vardhan Infrastructure, which was one of the six companies that won bids in Coimbatore Corporation, won tenders worth 88% of the total value of tenders floated by the corporation to source manpower to staff the Primary Healthcare Centres in Chennai. The remaining bids were won by Centronics India and KCP Engineers, which were also a part of the six-member syndicate.

Arappor Iyakkam further claimed that the tender rules were tweaked to accommodate Vardhan Infrastructure and exclude other bidders. The NGO alleged that the earlier rules did not have a minimum turnover value for the bidders to be eligible to apply and that this was a new rule brought in just to make sure nobody else other than Vardhan Infrastructure qualified.

The NGO further alleged that the officials in Coimbatore and Chennai Corporation also abet this discrimination between the bidders by resorting to methods that would prevent the other bidders from submitting their bids. One of the ways to block eligible bidders from submitting bids to tenders is to not issue them the Machinery Certificate, which is an essential document for submitting bids for bus route roads. “It is learned that the Minister, Top officials and select contractors collude and make sure that Machinery Certificate is issued to only select 2 or 3 bidders for each bid,” read the petition.

Stating that their complaints to DVAC and CBI detailing the corruption and the involvement of SP Velumani in corruption in awarding tenders remains unattended, the NGO requested the court to intervene and order for a fair and thorough probe into the matter.

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