Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Minister wants chief engineers to vouch for project viability, PWD says idea ridiculous

With most Commonwealth Games projects wrapped up, Finance Minister A K Walia has pulled out a masterstroke from his hat to put a stop on further construction projects. From now on, the chief engineer of a project will have to sign a personal undertaking claiming the work is justified in order to secure financial clearance.

The undertaking, signed by the Chief Engineer and endorsed by Engineer-in-Chief who heads the PWD and the Head of Department proposing a particular project, must declare they have personally studied cost estimates and attest that they are correct. The officials are also required to personally undertake that the project will be completed within the duration and the budget mentioned in the estimate.

The Public Works Department, which manages most of the state government’s road projects, has revolted against the order, with engineers having compiled a detailed note of objection they now plan to send to department secretary K K Sharma. A top engineer said, “We work according to the Central Public Works Department rules. There is no need for one government office to mistrust another. No chief engineer can personally take responsibility of any project,” says a senior PWD engineer.

This tussle between PWD and Finance department is also affecting the ongoing Games projects. Last week, the latter turned down an estimate sent by PWD asking for funds to pay the railways for ongoing construction at Barapullah Nullah. The PWD has to pay Indian Railways Rs 40 lakh per hour for stopping rail movement to facilitate construction.

The Finance department wants the PWD chief engineer to write an undertaking even to clear this estimate. “How can we give an undertaking for an estimate made by the Indian Railways. They should tell the railways to furnish it,” says a senior PWD engineer. If the money is delayed, the railways can stop work on the stretch. The elevated road on Barapullah Nullah is already much delayed and is expected to end only by the end of August.

Disgusted at the Finance department’s insistence to submit the undertaking, the engineers have sent a reply to their secretary saying it is not possible to predict completion deadlines since unexpected procedural requirements usually delay projects. “As for vouching for financial accuracy, we already do that while preparing the file for any project. What’s the point of a personal undertaking,” says an engineer.

Walia, meanwhile, says officials shouldn’t have a problem signing the undertaking. “When they are sure of a proposal’s fairness, what is the problem in stating it in the form of an undertaking,” he asks.

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