10 days, 3 gainers
Chandigarh, December 14
The Vigilance Bureau (VB) has now found that no case is made out against either Punjab State Electricity Board officials for allegedly importing substandard coal or against those responsible for alleged irregularities in the purchase of medical equipment.
The coal purchase case was referred to the VB in October this year while the other case relates to the period of the previous Akali regime.
A “clean chit” in the latter case has exonerated an IAS officer, besides a PCS officer posted in the Punjab Chief Minister’s office and a senior medical teacher. Senior functionaries of the PSEB will go scot free on the basis of a clause that was included in the purchase order for the coal.
This is the third “clean chit” in the past 10 days.
The other one relates to the withdrawal of a court case of alleged corruption against former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. The VB had told a local court in Chandigarh that the receipts submitted by Ms Bhattal with regard to the use of funds to the tune of Rs 20 lakh were in order and not fake, as alleged earlier.
Among the cases in which “clean chits” have been given is that of the purchase of medical equipment, including surgical items, worth about Rs 2 crore during 2001-02. The VB has finally decided that “no case is made out”.
Thirteen firms from which the purchases were made were also questioned and it was found that the officials did not indulge in any irregularity, said sources in the VB. The matter had also been raised in the state Assembly by the Akalis about four years ago.
A recent case was the purchase of coal worth crores of rupees from China by the PSEB for its thermal power stations at Ropar and Lehra Mohabbat. The PSEB incorporated various clauses in the purchase order.
These included that all testing of samples would be done at the PSEB’s own laboratory and the results would be accepted for specifications.
This clause provided an escape route for the top brass of the PSEB as none of the tests for specifications were carried out at the PSEB lab. The tests were carried out at the Shriram Institute Laboratory and also by the National Thermal Power Corporation. The results of both tests varied and hence created some doubts in the minds of the investigators, the sources said.
The PSEB has coal-testing labs at all its thermal plants, but why no test was carried out by the staff there, is still a mystery. The Tribune had reported in October that the authorities concerned had made five specifications irrelevant by amending the purchase order after receiving the coal at yards at PSEB plants. The PSEB had then clarified that “ by no stretch of the imagination can it be said that the change in specifications was done to benefit the suppliers of coal”.
The VB has possibly overlooked the fact that the specifications were changed after the execution of tenders, placing the purchase order and receiving coal. The amendments were to allow a higher ratio of hardgrove grindability index (HGI). However, as per the original purchase order, an HGI below 50 or above 55 was not to be accepted in any case. Experts say a higher HGI increases the risk of fire at the storage point. In the original purchase order 11 specifications were clearly mentioned.