PANAJI: The public accounts committee (PAC) of the Goa state legislative assembly 2013-14, has alleged a prima facie fraud in the disposal of six hectares of land at Reis Magos, Bardez, which incurred a loss of 6.7 crore to the Goa housing board (GHB). The PAC also held that the sale of land was in contravention to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
The PAC committee headed by the former chief minister Digambar Kamat has directed the chief secretary and the chief vigilance commissioner to conduct further investigation to fix accountability, take steps to recover the loss to the housing board and submit a compliance report to the committee.
The audit report for the year-ending March 31, 2000, had termed the land in question, which the board had bought at a cost of 1.22 crore, as idle investment. The land was purchased for housing projects, but, it could not be utilized, pending a clearance from the forest and environment department of the government of India.
In August 2005, the state advisory group of the forest department of the Goa government recommended diversion of these 67,090 sq m of private forest land, for implementation of housing schemes of Goa housing board.
Subsequently, the chief conservator of forests referred the matter to the regional office of the Union ministry of environment and forests at Bangalore.
In October 2005 the Goa housing board decided to dispose the land by calling for tenders and fixed a minimum offset price of Rs 450 per sq m for sale of this land. Four tenders were received and the highest offer from Mahadev Homes for Rs 3.36 crore was accepted.
The PAC observed, "There seems a prima facie case of manipulation and possible fraud in the tendering and subsequent award procedure concerning the land." It also pointed out that this has happened with the connivance of government officials as the advertisement that appeared in the newspapers did not inform the public of a possible diversion of land in question, which would have effectively raised the value of the land, thereby increasing revenue to the government.
The committee has pointed out glaring discrepancies in the tendering process and alleged cartelization by the tendering parties, which should have been noticed at the time of accepting the tenders.
All the four tender applications for the tender forms, three from Mumbai and one from Panaji, were received on the date of issue of tenders. Pastina Holiday homes, Dona Paula, one of the four bidders, furnished earnest money deposit by cheque instead of demand draft. Its application was not rejected, as required and taken into consideration for comparison of bids.
A PAC scrutiny also revealed that the person who signed the 'request for tender' form for Mahadev Homes and the one who quoted the rate and signed the tender form for Paramount Buildwell Pvt Ltd, one of the four bidders, was one and the same person.
Further, the person who filed tender forms for Pastina Holiday Homes, and the person who signed for Mahadev Homes, as partner, forwarding part payment of Rs 50 lakh was also one and the same, indicating a connection between the parties and possible collusion or cartel.
The PAC also observed that the board had not taken into account the prevailing market price which ranged between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 per sq m while fixing the minimum offset price of Rs 450 per sq m.