Minister admits to scam in setting up water labs

Minister admits to scam  in setting up water labs

 RD&PR Minister H K Patil on Saturday admitted that a Rs 190-crore scam had taken place in setting up water testing laboratories. This comes a day after Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Jagadish Shettar suggested that a scam had taken place.

Patil said that there were gross violations in the tender process. He has ordered a CID probe into the matter and has also cancelled the tender order of Rs 71 crore for 46 new laboratories which are meant to test quality of water. He, however, refused to own responsibility over the scam.

On Friday, Shettar said Patil had indulged in nepotism and had awarded the tender to a single source (companies owned by Prasad Rayapati) for setting up these labs in 146 taluks. He had also demanded Patil’s resignation and cancellation of tenders.

Patil also failed to pin the blame on department officials, though he said that the chief engineer had “ordered” the setting up of 80 labs in taluks. As many as 20 labs were set up without even following the tender norms. None of the files were cleared by the principal secretary of the department.

“Prima facie, it has come to fore that officials have erred and flouted the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurement (KTPP) Act. The matter was not even brought before the cabinet, which is mandatory. Even my permission was not taken. Stern action will be taken against those involved in this scam,” he said.

The Rural Development and Panchayat Raj minister, however, admitted that he was aware that the labs were being set up. When asked why he didn’t examine whether procedures were being followed, the minister remained mum.

Asked whether he owned responsibility over this illegality, Patil said, “I am taking responsibility by initiating criminal action and also by cancelling the tenders. However, there is no nepotism. Shettar is trying to gain political mileage by attacking me.” He was left embarrassed when it was brought to his notice by the media that the department had ordered an inquiry into the labs, after a media organisation highlighted the illegality. Despite seven months, the principal secretary inquiring into the matter has failed to furnish the report. He said he did not know Rayapati.

‘Organised crime’

Terming it as an “organised crime”, Patil said that it would be difficult to unearth culprits behind the scam. “These things happen either due to corruption or due to willful wrongdoings by officials. There have been instances when officials have been responsible for disappearance of important files. In this instance, works were awarded by entirely sidelining the statutory committees in the department,” he said.

Patil said that he would reveal the reasons behind the delay in setting up pure drinking water units in the month of July. Shettar had also indicated of violations in this project.

Water-testing lab in Mysuru not fully functional

The district-level water-testing laboratory set up by the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj department in Mysuru is not fully functional.

The laboratory has sophisticated equipment, but most of the tests are conducted in the traditional, manual way, resulting in delay in issuing reports. Only a latest ‘Spectro Photometer’ is presently under use, while most of the equipment do not even have power supply as there are no sufficient plug points.

The laboratory is also congested.
The facility is housed in a small room of the Zilla Panchayat Engineering Division building. The technicians here use the old test tube and titration methods to check water samples from seven taluks. Tests for the suspected presence of ferrous, fluorides, nitrates, and dissolve salts, hardness of water, pH value, are conducted here. Most of the samples are from borewells in villages.

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