‘ACB misleading state on report’

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The presence of an anti-corruption bureau (ACB) report related to the corruption in Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation (MKVDC) has been a mystery, ever since state chief information commissioner (CIC) Ratnakar Gaikwad was recently told by the agency that the report had gone missing. Mr Gaikwad had then immediately ordered an inquiry. When contacted, ACB chief Raj Khilnani clarified that he had had the copy of the report with him all this while.
However, RTI activist Popat Kurne, who has sought the report through RTI, has alleged that he has been pursuing the RTI application since the last eight years and the ACB has been misleading everyone by giving vague replies.
In 1998, a confidential report was submitted by the ACB in Pune, revealing how some contractors hired for the irrigation projects under MKVDC might have siphoned off huge amounts of money by manipulating not only tender notices, but also inflating the estimated cost of the projects to ensure huge benefits.
The report was prepared by S.M. Mushrif, the then superintendent of police (ACB) in Pune. He had prepared the report after being tipped-off by one of the under secretary of the irrigation department about the alleged irregularities.
Apart from sending the report to the additional DGP, ACB, in Mumbai, Mr Mushrif had also sought permission from the state government for an open inquiry into the affairs of the MKVDC, so that many more irregularities could be exposed and offence registered against the defaulting officers and office-bearers involved with the contractors. However, no action has been taken on the report since the last 14 years.
The issue of corruption in the irrigation department surfaced again when Mr Gaikwad passed an order last week, regarding an appeal filed by Pune-based RTI activist who had sought information about the concerned report. But the public information officer (PIO) of the ACB failed to provide information related to the probe, claiming that such a report was not prepared.
Mr Kurne said he had sought information under the RTI Act about the inquiry report, the notes sent by the officer, who investigated the matter in 1999, and the action taken by the state. After hearing the appeal, the CIC came to the conclusion that since the information was missing, a case under the Public Records Act, 2005 be registered. It also asked the director general of ACB to be present with his findings at the commission on October 31.
Speaking to The Asian Age, Mr Khilnani claimed that he had a copy of the report and his team would coordinate with the information commission. “This is not a missing case. I have the copy of the report,” the DG, ACB said. When asked why it was not given to the applicant, he replied, “Initially, the applicant had sought some other information and at the last hour, he asked for the copy of that report which could not have been furnished.”
However, Mr Kurne alleged that the ACB officials are misleading the information commissioner as well as the public. “I am following the RTI since the last eight years. My first application asking for the copy of the report was filed in 2006-07 and I was informed that no such report was ever prepared,” he said.
Incidentally, the 32 irrigation projects that were approved by then irrigation minister Ajit Pawar in 2009, includes seven projects of the MKVDC, due to which Mr Pawar was forced to resign from the post of the DCM last year.

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