ERA cites delay in projects for the additional payment, but it still doesn’t add up; GKW also did not engage experts for whose salary it got Rs 4 crore
SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA), a government agency constituted for the implementation of externally-aided projects, has paid more than four times the contracted fee to a consultant it hired for projects funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Reliable sources told Kashmir Reader that the consultant, Kolkata-based GKW Limited, was engaged in 2013 for a period of three years to design and supervise all ADB-funded projects in the state, for a fee of Rs 7 crore, including Rs 1.5 crore for contingency and nearly Rs 2 crore for out-of-pocket expenses. The remuneration for experts was to be Rs 4 crore out of the Rs 7 crore.
Payments to GKW for the contract have now exceeded Rs 30 crore. Furthermore, even today when most of the projects have been completed, the consultant is still drawing the fees that are more than what it was getting when work on the projects was at its peak.
The additional fees, as per the Chief Executive Officer of ERA, Satish Razdan, were paid because the projects were delayed and the ERA had to extend the contract.
As per a top office-bearer of GKW, who wished not to be named, the projects were delayed by two years, during which the ERA had to pay the salary component of the allotted money to GKW. The office-bearer said that no work could be done in two years as the situation was not conducive to carry on work on bridges, roads, drainage, and a flyover project.
“After we received the projects, the work continued for one year and then it was halted by the 2014 floods. Then the 2016 unrest delayed the projects for six more months. In 2017, work was further delayed by the braid-chopping incidents. During these years, intermittent shutdowns also delayed the projects by one year. In total, work was delayed by two years,” the office-bearer said.
Sources said that the delay in the projects meant that the consultant was getting paid for doing no work. They pointed out that two years’ delay amounts to about Rs 3 crore additional fees, raising the cost to Rs 10 crore, not Rs 30 crore.
“How the consultant was paid several times over the contracted amount needs to be seen. It cannot be mismanagement but is evidently a scandal,” the sources said.
Sources privy to the developments told Kashmir Reader that the consultant was supposed to get a battery of experts from outside, on the basis of whose CV the contract was given to GKW. But the company actually deployed very few of them and that too, occasionally, and beyond the stipulated time period. Sources said that out of nearly 25 such experts, only 10 of them were engaged, intermittently.
The office-bearer of GKW said that the company engaged most of its workforce from within the Valley, and brought some experts from outside from time to time.
Sources told Kashmir Reader that given the fact that the consultant did not deploy the staff identified in its tender, makes GKW liable to be “blacklisted” by the ERA and ADB.
“We hired most of the staff from the Valley. We trained them here and now they are providing their services,” the GKW office-bearer said.
Parvez, the team leader of GKW, declined to comment on this issue. ERA’s Razdan said that everything had gone perfectly, without explaining how the consultant was paid four times more money.