he government on Thursday said it was not against an investigation by the CBI into allegations of fraud by Progressive Construction Ltd (PCL) in a World Bank-funded national highway project. Highways minister C P Joshi told Rajya Sabha that this could be done only when the multilateral agency establishes wrongdoing.
“Once the World Bank is satisfied it is fraudulent, we will get it investigated by any agency,” Joshi said in response to a question.
Records accessed by TOI show that World Bank’s Institutional Integrity Unit has asked the government to seek help or evidence from the agency to prove the alleged “fraudulent and corrupt” practices by the private contractor. The report alleged that PCL and a joint venture of PCL-MVR, which were engaged in four stretches on the Lucknow-Muzaffarpur national highway funded by the Bank, had submitted “false details” and “fake invoices” showing utilization of funds that they had initially received as advance. The World Bank loan for the project is $620 million (over Rs 3,000 crore at current exchange rate).
Based on the papers submitted by the contractor, further advances known as “second stage mobilization advance” were given and, in two cases, PCL had allegedly diverted a portion of this to real estate projects in India and abroad.
The report also alleged that the private firm doled out gifts and favours to NHAI, ministry officials and supervision consultants besides “sundry cash payments” to them which was at least Rs 2.23 crore.
Despite several attempts, PCL could not be reached for comment. The phone number listed on its website did not elicit any response.