CAG report on Dwarka expressway erroneous, claims official while INC mounts attack

While the INC used the CAG report on Dwarka Expressway financial irregularities to mount an attack on Modi, an official called it erroneous.

CAG report on Dwarka expressway erroneous, claims official while INC mounts attack

The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), which found a 13-fold increase in the construction cost of the Dwarka Expressway, has been branded as an erroneous one by a senior official of the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. The CAG report on Dwarka Expressway has created a political uproar, as the Opposition has been alleging gross corruption taking place under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s watch.

The CAG report on Dwarka Expressway, published on August 10th, found that Rs 2.51bn per kilometre has been spent by the ministry for the construction of the expressway under Phase-1 of the Bharatmala Programme for building national highways in the country.

According to the report, the Union Cabinet had approved Rs. 182m per kilometre, which the ministry is denying now. The expressway, having a total of 14 lanes, includes an eight-lane elevated road and is being developed as four different packages, is expected to be fully completed by January 2024.

The ministry’s officials claimed that the four packages for developing Dwarka Expressway were awarded after a “transparent” tender process that attracted multiple bidders. In addition, it has been reported that the average cost of the 28.96 km stretch of the expressway was estimated at Rs 52.69bn or an average of Rs 2bn per kilometre before inviting the bidders. 

The ministry’s official added that the winning bidder quoted a cost of Rs 1.84bn per kilometre, resulting in savings of 12% over the estimates of the government.

Opposition parties such as the Indian National Congress (INC) launched an all-round attack on the Modi government. INC spokesperson Supriya Shrinate contended that the CAG now is not talking about presumptive or notional losses, while it maintained a well-documented and real loot of public money. 

“The Bharatmala project, monitored by the CCEA (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs), saw a cost escalation from Rs 15.37 crore (Rs 153.7m) a kilometre to Rs 32.13 crore (Rs 321.3m) a km. The bidding process was a fraud and no safety consultant was appointed. All this happened under the Prime Minister’s watch”, Shrinate alleged. 

Shrinate speaks at the INC’s press conference on August 16th 2023.

She further added, “In the Dwarka Expressway, the CAG found that Rs 18 crore (Rs 180m) per km jumped to Rs 250 crore (Rs 2.5bn) per km. What wonder was created? Was this a road? This should be turned into a monument! And look at the corruption in the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). The CAG examined only five toll plazas and illegal collection of Rs 132 crore (Rs 1.32bn). If all the toll plazas in the country are probed, the loot will be worth lakhs of crores (trillions).” 

While some parties of the Opposition, including the INC, trained their guns at the Modi government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), there have been speculations in a section of the media that claimed the CAG report on Dwarka Expressway is used by the prime minister to target his colleague, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari.

Gadkari is often considered one of the top contenders for the prime minister’s position in the BJP. Gadkari, who is reportedly close to the BJP’s parental body Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has implicitly criticised the functioning of the Modi government at times while maintaining his ultra-right standpoint.

The INC also questioned the silence of Modi over the CAG report on Dwarka Expressway. Shrinate said, “This is a government which does nothing without the Prime Minister’s knowledge. Even toilets and trains are inaugurated by Modi himself. The responsibility obviously lies with the Prime Minister.” 

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