Northeast

Meghalaya government reacts to AITC

The Meghalaya government to sue opposition AITC national spokesperson Saket Gokhale for alleging financial irregularities in Meghalaya Ecotourism Infrastructure Development Project.

ByNNN/Shillong

Updated 6 Dec 2022, 4:37 pm

(Representational Image: Unsplash)
(Representational Image: Unsplash)

 

The Meghalaya government has threatened to sue opposition AITC national spokesperson Saket Gokhale for alleging that there are financial irregularities of over Rs 632 crore which is meant for the Meghalaya Ecotourism Infrastructure Development Project.

“The State Government views this very seriously and is considering suing the issuer of this press statement for defamation,” a statement issued by the Commissioner and Secretary in-charge Planning department said on Monday.

It said the State Government strongly rejected "all these claims which are fabricated and devoid of facts". It further said that "the issuer of the statement has made such motivated and inaccurate claims in the past and it appears that the sole intention behind the recent press statement is to mislead the public".

“Further, the issuer of this press statement never approached the State Government or any of its agencies to seek any information nor used any of the publicly available information including those available at https://meghalayatenders.gov.in,” it also said.

The statement further informed that the Meghalayan Age Limited (MAL) is a State Government company under the aegis of the Planning Department, which has been incorporated under Section 2 (45) of the Companies Act, 2013.

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The project cost for the Meghalaya Ecotourism Infrastructure Development Project ( MEIDP) is about Rs 731 crore and is one of the many externally aided projects (EAPs) being implemented in the State.

It must be noted that under any EAP being implemented in the northeastern states, the Government of India passes 90 per cent of the funding as grants to the State government. Thus, only 10% of the total amount has to be paid by the State government.

Further, the entire tendering process for MEIDP is being done as per the norms of the state government and is being overseen and approved by the funding agency, the New Development Bank (NDB). All the details are made available to the public at - https://meghalayatenders.gov.in.

“Given the above, it appears that all the claims being made by the issuer of the press statement seem to be highly motivated,” the government statement said.

On the allegation that names of contractors were not revealed publicly, the Commissioner & Secretary said, the works tenders have been floated by the respective departments - Public Works Department, Directorate of Tourism and the State Sports Council of Meghalaya. The entire tendering process is being done as per the norms of the State Government and is being overseen and approved by the New Development Bank. All the details are made available to the public on - https://meghalayatenders.gov.in/

With regards to Gokhale’s claim that the majority of projects under the ecotourism project are road constructions, the government official said that the road sub-projects comprise just 14 per cent of the total project size.

Further, these road sub-projects are indeed being taken up by the PWD as part of the overall project. It must be noted that the development of tourism cannot happen in silos. Connectivity is integral to tourism and such connectivity projects are also taken under GoI-sponsored programs such as SWADESH Darshan and PRASAD, it also said.

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On the allegation that not a single financial report was filed with the concerned ministry, he said, “All the statutory and legal compliances are being met and followed by the Meghalayan Age Limited. It is mandated by the external funding agencies (New Development Bank in this case) that Project Management Units (PMU) be set up for overseeing the progress and implementation of externally aided projects.

"These PMUs are selected through international, open and competitive bidding and typically global consulting firms get onboarded as PMUs. This standard process is being followed for all the EAPs in not just Meghalaya, but in other State and Central Government projects too.”

Stating that it is incorrect that a flurry of tenders has been floated in the last three months, the government official said, “To date, 8 major works tenders have been floated under the project. Out of these, 2 were floated in December 2021; another 4 were floated in March 2022 and the remaining two were floated in the months of August 2022 and October 2022 respectively. Further, one of the conditions for the signing of the project agreement is that projects worth 30% of the project size be tendered and awarded”.

“Given that the agreement is scheduled to be signed during the month of January 2023, it is imperative that projects worth Rs. 219 Cr are awarded by December 2022. It must be noted that all the processes are being followed for tendering and awarding of projects. They are done only after the required approvals have been obtained from the NDB,” the official added.

He further maintained that all the statutory and legal compliances are being met and followed by the Meghalayan Age Limited. A few aspects of how Externally Aided Projects (EAPs) are funded, sanctioned and implemented need to be clearly understood to appreciate the State’s emphasis on these projects. First, for the northeastern states, EAP money is almost equivalent to a grant from the Government of India.

“The Government of India borrows the project cost as a soft loan from external agencies and 90 per cent of it is provided as a grant to Meghalaya. The State will only have to repay 10 per cent of the project cost over a 12-20 year period at the most nominal interest rates. Thus, EAP money is the cheapest source of funding and is almost equivalent to a grant from the Government of India for our State. All the processes, norms and rules are being followed with regard to the finances and awarding of the project,” the government official stated.

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meghalaya governmentaitcsaket gokhalemeghalaya ecotourismmeghalaya development

NNN/Shillong

NNN/Shillong

Newmai News Network, Shillong, Meghalaya

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