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MANIREDA Left In The Dark In Solar Project Payment

IMPHAL, May 4: A project related to installation of solar street lighting system in Gram Panchayat areas that had been entrusted to MA-NIREDA after a joint meeting attended by Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh himself was found to have been handed over to a private firm and the fund already sanctioned by the Directorate of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj.

The matter has come to light when MANIREDA approached the Finance Department for releasing the fund after the works were completed.

Blatant violation of the laid down guidelines of the Government with regard to implementation of development projects and schemes and coercive method to suit their own interest by some of the Ministers in the SPF Government is just the tip of the iceberg that The Sangai Express stumbled upon during the course of an independent investigation.

With regard to the present case, Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh had chaired a meeting in his own office room on May 12, 2009. Attended by the then Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary (Planning), Principal Secretary (RD), Principal Secretary (Finance), Commissioner (Works) and Director (MANIREDA) among others, the meeting discussed and took note of the need for installation of solar lighting system in Gram Panchayat and Urban areas as well as in hill districts in due consideration of the poor power supply in the State.

Accordingly, the meeting approved sanctioning of Rs 25.9163 crores as non-plan expenditure to the Panchayat Raj Institutions from the second State Finance Commission award of 2008-09. Out of this approved amount, Rs 5 crores have been earmarked for purchasing the required solar lighting system.

In the following the financial year, 2009-10, an additional amount of Rs 5 crores had also been approved for purchasing the solar lighting systems for installation and providing light.

Subsequently, 165 Gram Panchayats under the valley districts of Manipur were identified for installation of 30 street lighting sys- tem each.

At a cost of Rs 8 crores, 2424 solar lighting systems were supposed to illuminate urban localities while the hill district provision stood at 1280 systems at the cost of Rs 4.22 crores.

It also came to light that at the high level meeting it was decided that under the norms and specification of Ministry of New Renewable Energy, MANIREDA was entrusted to purchase solar lighting system items from a Central Public Sector undertaking and consequently Bangalore-based Bharat Electronics Limited, which is under the Ministry of Defense, was listed from where the equipment should be procured.

In the initial stage, MANIREDA was allocated necessary financial provision from the funds of MAHUD and Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department to purchase the items from the Bangalore firm, which the Agency complied, followed by completion of the installation works.

When the Finance Department authorities were intimated to release the remaining fund with MANIREDA officials conveying that solar lighting systems have been installed at 165 Gram Panchayat areas, the former Department revealed that Rs 2646.69 lakhs had already been released to the Panchayati Raj Institution on August 28, 2010 out of which Rs 5 crores was meant for MANIREDA as the amount incurred in purchasing the solar lighting equipment.

The Finance Department record clearly mentioned the fund release for the purpose of purchasing 438 solar street lamps for Imphal East district, 297 in Imphal west, 471 for Thoubal and 309 for installation of solar lamps in Bishnupur district.

Significantly, a circular issued by the Deputy Secretary of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Secretariat Department also mentioned in clear terms that the Rs 5 crores allocation out of the total fund released was meant for MANIREDA to bear the cost of purchase and installation of the solar lighting systems.

Contrary to the official procedures, The Sangai Express detected that out of the total fund meant for MANIREDA, RD&PR Director assigned a Singjamei-based M/s Sofia Traders, Reliance Industries (Solar Group) to supply solar street lighting systems for installation at various locations which were not specified by the MANIREDA.

The Director is further informed to have already released an amount of Rs 4.75 crores to the said firm last month which tantamount to violation of laid down norms of the Government as the allocation did not have been sanction of the Finance Department.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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