In a very serious allegation, the Trinamool Congress has said that there were large scale financial irregularities of USD 79.05 millions (Rs 632 crore) in the Meghalaya Ecotourism Infrastructure Development Project.
According to the party, these irregularities happened under the company Meghalayan Age Ltd which is spearheaded by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma’s top aide D Vijay Kumar.
While making the charges, Trinamool Congress spokesman Saket S. Gokhale said that Meghalayan Age Ltd is a government-run company founded in 2020 with Kumar as Chairman and Managing Director.
The company is responsible for implementing the Meghalaya Ecotourism Infrastructure Development Project for which the Meghalaya government has taken a loan of USD 79.05 millions (Rs 632 crores) from the New Development Bank (NDB).
“Since the creation of Meghalayan Age Ltd and after the loan of USD 79.05 millions (Rs 632 crores) was sanctioned by NDB, several projects worth crores of rupees have been announced as part of the Meghalaya Ecotourism Infrastructure Development Project,” Gokhale said.
He also alleged that tenders and Request for Proposals (RFPs) have been floated for these projects by Meghalayan Age Ltd and not by the State government “which means that none of the details of the tenders are public and the process of awarding these tenders and the names of contractors who have been awarded these tenders is secret and not revealed publicly”.
Gokhale also said that a majority of projects under the Meghalaya Ecotourism Infrastructure Development Project are construction of roads which technically falls under the ambit of PWD (Roads) but is instead being undertaken by Meghalayan Age Ltd.
“Road construction and public works are a sector where massive corruption and irregularities have been seen in the past with most contracts going to favoured ‘special’ contractors like Badri Rai & Company instead of local contractors. It is absolutely bizarre and unclear why road construction projects worth crores of rupees are being undertaken with borrowed funds in the guise of ‘ecotourism development’ when these are basic responsibilities of the PWD,” Gokhale said.
Stating that Meghalayan Age Ltd under D Vijay Kumar has not filed a single financial report with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs since its inception in 2020, Gokhale said that in that period, an amount of USD 79.05 million (Rs 632 crore) from the New Development Bank (NDB) has been sanctioned for ecotourism projects by Meghalayan Age Ltd.
“However, not a single penny has been accounted for. Moreover, the company Meghalayan Age Ltd has floated tenders worth crores for numerous projects as well as for consultants. The MDA government has a track record for appointing ‘consultants’ with a process that has zero transparency. Keeping with that tradition, D Vijay Kumar has sanctioned crores of rupees worth of projects without any transparency in how the projects were awarded, to whom they were awarded, and what were the criteria for awarding the projects,” Gokhale alleged.
“A flurry of tenders have been floated and projects been awarded by Meghalayan Age Ltd in the last three months which raises serious questions about why projects are being hurriedly handed out without any transparency just before the Meghalaya Assembly elections are scheduled,” he added.
Gokhale also said that the Rs 632 crore funds have been borrowed as a foreign currency loan by the Meghalaya government “which means people of Meghalaya are being saddled with huge loans without any transparency in how that money is being used and how the projects are being awarded”.
“It is a known fact that Chairman & MD of Meghalayan Age Ltd, D Vijay Kumar is the closest aide of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma. Indeed, not a single decision is made by the chief minister without consulting D Vijay Kumar who is known within government circles as ‘the super CM.’ Therefore, it is reasonable to say that Sangma is well aware of these irregularities of Rs 600 plus crore in Meghalayan Age Ltd under D Vijay Kumar,” Gokhale said.
He also referred to similar irregularities which were earlier highlighted by the All India Trinamool Congress in the Shillong Smart City Ltd which is also a government-run company where, incidentally, D Vijay Kumar is one of the founding directors.
“We demand that IAS officer D Vijay Kumar and CM Conrad Sangma must answer where Rs 600 plus crore of funds have gone and why Meghalayan Age Ltd has not filed a single financial statement as required under law. We also demand that the people of Meghalaya must be informed about where funds have been spent by Meghalayan Age Ltd, who are the contractors that have been awarded these projects, and on what basis have the projects been awarded. The people of Meghalaya also have a right to know as to why tenders and projects worth crores of rupees have been rushed through by Meghalayan Age Ltd in just the last three months in the run-up to the Meghalaya Assembly elections. Conrad Sangma must answer why his close aide D Vijay Kumar has been brazenly allowed to hide the financials of Meghalayan Age Ltd and where Rs 600 plus crore of public money taken as a loan have gone,” Gokhale said.