The Tribune investigation: Part-II
Tribune News Service
A major thrust area of the SAD-BJP regime has been to make Punjab surplus in power. While doing so, there is evidence to suggest Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s extended family allegedly benefited as the second in the series of The Tribune’s investigative report reveals
Chandigarh, April 26
Parneet Kaur is married to Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, grandson of Punjab’s former Chief Minister Partap Singh Kairon and Food and Civil Supplies Minister in the Badal government.
Shivalik Telecom Limited is owned by Adesh Partap’s mother Kusum Kumari and his wife Parneet Kaur, besides Vikram Singh. Adesh Partap is also a shareholder in the company.
In addition, the Kairon family owns two other companies — Shivalik Agro Chemicals and Shivalik Electric Equipment Company Private Limited. Both these have done or are doing business with the state government.
Adesh Partap’s brother Uday Kairon is the CEO of Shivalik Agro Limited, which operates from Kairon’s cinema house Neelam Theatre in Chandigarh. Both Adesh Partap and Uday Partap are directors in another Kairon company — Shivalik Farm Chemical Limited. In Shivalik Electricals, Adesh Partap and Parneet Kaur are shareholders.
Work allotted by govt
Investigations reveal that in the past five years, the Punjab Government allotted over Rs 400 crore worth of work to companies either owned by the Kairons or run in collaboration with other consortiums.
The majority of work had been allotted by Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) and its earlier avatar — the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).
Incidentally, the Punjab Chief Minister has since 2007 held the power portfolio, of which the PSPCL (PSEB earlier) is a premier department, in the state.
While there are no government rules that bar a minister, who is a shareholder or director in a company, from bidding for government contracts, the fact that the Chief Minister held the power portfolio may have resulted in a conflict of interest in some of the cases as the companies in which his son-in-law Adesh Partap Kairon had business interests were bidders for the tenders.
Tendering rules ‘bent’
Sources say in one specific case, the tendering process was allegedly bent to suit Shivalik Telecom. In 2009, the PSEB invited a tender for the supply of material, its erection, testing and commissioning along with dismantling of existent material connected with the conversion of low transmission lines to 11KV lines and installing new transformers on a turn-key basis for all high-loss agricultural feeders under the High Voltage Distribution System (HVDS) scheme in Punjab.
On August 28, 2009, the board opened a tender for the work for Rs 479.30 crore. Sources said the first bid of the tender was withdrawn a month after it was floated allegedly because Shivalik Telecom Limited did not fulfil the financial conditions, which were then lowered to suit the Kairons’ company.
The original terms and conditions made it mandatory for the bidding companies to have an “experience of manufacture or supply or execution of electrical works or power development works whose annual turnover pertaining to these activities for each of the last three financial years is not less than Rs 30 crore or total turnover pertaining to these activities is not less than Rs 100 crore during the past four financial years”.
Curiously a month later, a tailor-made fresh tender was floated and opened on September 22, 2009, which relaxed the crucial conditions — the turnover amount reduced from Rs 30 crore to Rs 4 crore, the total turnover reduced from Rs 100 crore to Rs 8 crore and the tenure reduced from four financial years to two.
Documents show that in the second tender, a total of 11 companies were allotted work since Shivalik Telecom appeared at the 10th position. Despite being at the 10th spot, Shivalik Telecom was allotted work to the tune of Rs 64.59 crore, which was more than what the top bidder — Jindal Traders, Barnala — got (Rs 41.69 crore).
In another case, Shivalik Telecom used the consortium route to bag an order though such techniques are not usual for companies to resort too. In 2011-12, the PSPCL floated tenders for supply, erection, testing and commissioning of certain works relating to transmission and distribution of power in various towns of Punjab under a Government of India (GOI) scheme (Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme - R-APDRP). Under the scheme launched in July, 2008, the state corporation was required to reduce the electricity losses ranging above 20 per cent to around 15 per cent to avail of 50 per cent subsidy on the entire expenditure.
Shivalik Telecom Limited formed a consortium with two other companies — A2Z Maintenance Engineering Services Limited, Gurgaon, and Star Transformers Limited, Bathinda. This work was also related to transmission and distribution of power.
The PSPCL allotted individual work orders, totalling Rs 226.75 crore, in 15 towns to the consortium on May 10, 2013. Asked by The Tribune, the companies declined to share details of how they split the work.
In other cases, Shivalik Telecom combined with Jaipur-based Oswal Cables Private Limited to bag orders worth Rs 58.82 crore from the PSEB. Among them, on March 6, 2009 the PSEB gave Shivalik Telecom Limited and Oswals a work order to the tune of Rs 24.62 crore for commissioning and supply of material under Own Your Tubewell (OYT) scheme (totalling 3,336 tubewells).
The Shivalik-Oswal consortium was also given the work of clearing the waterlogged areas, which included those under Muktsar and Badal circles. On March 27, 2009, the PSEB gave the work order worth Rs 34.21 crore for installation and commissioning of 4,541 tubewells in the waterlogged areas. When the PSPCL was formed in 2010, Shivalik also individually bagged orders under another scheme - Accelerated Release of Tubewell Connection (ARTC) - to provide transformers near tubewells. It got a work order for the release of 4,183 tubewell connections in Bathinda and Faridkot circles amounting to Rs 37 crore.
Sources say another of Kairon’s company, Shivalik Electric Equipment Company Private Limited, is said to have supplied electricity poles, wires, conductors and transformers, besides other equipment worth several tens of crores to the PSPCL.
In the agricultural sector, documents with The Tribune show the government purchased pesticides and weedicides (Propiconazole 25 % EC) from Shivalik Agro Limited, a Kairon company, worth Rs 5.67 crore under the GOI scheme (Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana) in March 2013. This material is used for the control of yellow rust and Karnal Bunt in wheat crop. Incidentally, the agriculture portfolio is also with the CM.
When The Tribune asked Adesh Partap Singh Kairon about the benefits that accrued to his companies from the Punjab Government in various ways, he refused to be drawn into details and said it would be better to ask the question to the PSPCL Chairman, instead of him explaining his position.
PSPCL Chairman KD Chaudhary claimed the process of tendering and allotment of works was transparent and the work invariably goes either to the lowest bidder or the company willing to work at the lowest rate. When asked about the possible conflict of interest, he said: “The directorship of companies and their ownership pattern had no relation to our functioning.”
Tomorrow: Renewable Energy
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