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PAC raps Baalu’s ministry
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 29
Facing the flak already for admitting that he used his position to request for favours for his son’s company, minister for shipping, road transport and highways T.R. Baalu is now at the receiving end from a parliamentary panel which has asked his ministry to refrain from interfering in port trusts’ functioning.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has stressed that “the ministry should desist from intervening in commercial and operational matters concerning the port trusts, decisions on which should be best left to professional experts serving the port.”

It further said the interference of the ministry in the internal working of the Chennai Port Trust, especially in matters relating to the commercial operations (owning or outsourcing the dredger), was uncalled for.

According to the report, the trust and the ministry continually changed their stance on the construction and supply of a dredger, which led to an avoidable additional expenditure.

The committee also pointed to some other factors which led to the additional expenditure. These included the decision to sell the dredger under construction to the Dredging Corporation of India (DCI) on a cost plus basis and then in-chartering it for dredging activities of the port without conducting a feasibility and cost analysis.

Incidentally, the examination of the issue by the PAC also brought the issue of the autonomy of the port into focus. The committee observed that since the trust was in a better position to assess its requirements relating to dredging and other related operational and functional difficulties, the ministry should have left the functioning of the owning and outsourcing a dredger to the trust. It further observed that even though the DCI had offered very competitive rates to the Chennai Port Trust, the ministry did not accept them for a long term agreement, which did not allow the trust to take a practical commercial decision.



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