N-fuel maker hires ex-staffer's firm for Rs 2.4k-crore project

N-fuel maker hires ex-staffer's firm for Rs 2.4k-crore project

India’s lone atomic fuel manufacturer, Hyderabad-based Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC), has hired a private firm owned by one of its former executives as consultant to a mega project in Rajasthan.

The NFC is setting up a Rs 2,400-crore unit in Kota as a greenfield project to manufacture fuel assemblies for four upcoming 700-MWe nuclear power plants at Kakrapara in Gujarat and Rawatbhata in Rajasthan.

One of the consultants for the project is a company named Beta Concepts, owned by S M Rao, who retired from the NFC in 2006 as deputy chief executive. He responded to the tender — advertised on the NFC’s own computer network and not in the regular media — and bagged a Rs 18-lakh deal.

There are several other individual consultants for the Kota project, including four former NFC scientists and another firm called Linchpin Engineering Solutions (P) Ltd, which is associated with the Kota project for the past six years.

A section of the NFC scientific staff has recently written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi questioning the need to appoint all these consultants as the institute has close to 580 scientific officers, of whom 66 senior officers are already associated with the project.

The NFC, on its part, maintains that due procedure was followed while appointing the retired officers and private firms. The NFC board cleared the project management consultants’ engagement as well as the budget.

“The NFC’s statement, that due procedure was followed in selecting retired officers as consultants, is irrelevant as from the above point it can be noted that the consultants were not required. The facts may be verified by the senior officers at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO),” said the complaint letter to Modi, a copy of which is available with Deccan Herald.

The Department of Atomic Energy, which governs the NFC, comes under the PMO.Several of these consultants were appointed to review documents submitted by the Engineers India Limited, which was chosen as the original consultant for detailed engineering consultancy and construction supervision services for setting up NFC-Kota.

Asked about this, NFC Deputy Chief Executive (Administration) S Goverdhan Rao said: “By virtue of their specialisation and past experience, majority of the consultants happened to be former employees of the department.

“The NFC has spent less than Rs 1 crore and saved more than Rs 4 core on engagement of these project management consultants. While it is a matter of positive contribution by the NFC in saving precious government funds, it is being projected negatively,” he told Deccan Herald.

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