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Naidu’s saga of “legal corruption” changes rules to undermine two Chief Secretaries

N. Chandrababu Naidu

Former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh N Chandrababu Naidu left no stone unturned in his brazen attempt to misappropriate public money. Besides the classic forms of corruption like cronyism, nepotism and parochialism he also indulged in “Legal Corruption”.
Legal corruption was defined first by World Bank economist Daniel Kaufman. Those in power have the ability to make laws to protect themselves from corruption charges.
Mr Naidu changed rules to undermine the objections of two Chief Secretaries. After being elected to power in 2014, Chandrababu Naidu removed the existing contractors from the works of Galeru-Nagari Sujala Sravanthi (GNSS), Handri- Neeva Sujala Sravanthi (HNSS), Gorakallu and many other projects. Then he hiked the costs of the projects many times and called for new tenders without even obtaining administrative approvals for them. While tenders were called for 25 packages of different projects, in a strange coincidence, all of them were won by the companies of the ruling party leaders.Most of the tenders were won by Rithwik Projects, the company of C.M. Ramesh, who was then a TDP MP.

Rs.6,000 crore to change hands

Ground was prepared for Rs. 6,000 crore to change hands. In all packages, mobilization advances were issued, about 50 % of bills were paid before the granting of any administrative approvals. As the officials of the Finance Department started raising objections to this illegal process, the then Chief Minister Mr Naidu and the Water Resources Minister Devineni Umamaheswara Rao coerced them into silence. Indeed, the payment of advances and bills without administrative approvals was against the law.
To evade public outcry, the government sought to legalize the Rs. 6,000 crore scandal and came out with what it called ‘new cost escalation’ proposals. However, the proposal ran into trouble with two Chief Secretaries— I.Y.R. Krishna Rao and S.P. Tucker—refusing to sign
them.

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Tackling the Chief Secretaries

To tackle the Chief Secretaries, Mr Naidu and his son Nara Lokesh came up with a new route called ‘Cabinet approval’. Much to the chagrin of the Chief Secretaries, the Cabinet ‘approved’ the cost escalation proposals. Despite the ‘approval’ of the Cabinet, the Chief Secretaries refused to sign these proposals. Due to their opposition, the proposals had gone back to the cabinet thrice.
A proposal going back to the cabinet thrice due to opposition from the Chief Secretaries could be the first of its kind event in the history of independent India. Two Chief Secretaries refusal to give consent to the government proposals indicates the dangerous levels of corruption of Chandrababu Naidu’s regime. It is learnt that Rs. 3,000 crore, that is, half of Rs. 6,000 crore was paid as bribes.

In the interest of cronies

Mr Naidu time and again changed rules to serve the interest of his cronies. He pushed proposals through the Cabinet though it was in violation of rules to favour contractors at the expense of state exchequer. He asked the Cabinet on January 20, 2017, to approve GOs 22
and 63, which would ensure the release of additional funds to contractors of newly undertaken projects, in violation of engineering and procurement (EPC) rules. He made sure that the Cabinet approved the proposal that paved the way for large scale corruption.
These two GOs— 22 and 63– have burdened the state by Rs. 20,000 crore while giving additional funds to the contractors who were close to Mr Naidu. Commission of up to six per cent changed hands from the funds meant for irrigation projects. The TDP government by its own admission said Rs. 50,000 crore was spent on irrigation projects, and an estimated Rs. 20,000 crore could be put down as institutional corruption

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