New Delhi: Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari today told Parliament (Lok Sabha) that the Central Vigilance Commission of India has constituted a Special InvestigationTeam of three officers to investigate the charge that National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) have allegedly been bribed by the US based firms to bag contracts during 2011-15 and report to the Commission.
The Minister gave this information to the House in a written reply. This came in response to a starred question on “Bribe to bag contracts” by Dharmendra Yadav of Samajwadi Party and Anwhar Raajhaa of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
The Minister of Road Transport and Highways was asked:
(a) whether officials of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) have allegedly been bribed by the US based firms to bag contracts during 2011-15;
(b) If so, the details thereof along with the reaction of the Government thereto;
(c) Whether the Government has conducted any inquiry in this regard;
(d) If so, the outcome thereof along with the action taken/proposed to be taken by the Government in this regard; and
(e) The names of the National Highways allocated to the said firms along with the present status thereof, State-wise?
According to the reply tabled in the House, the Minister told the House in response to (a) and (b):
“It was reported in media that M/s CDM Smith, through its employees and agents, and those of its wholly owned subsidiary in India (CDM India), paid approximately $1.18 million in bribes to government officials in India in exchange for highway construction supervision and design contracts. This media report emanates from the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division letter dated June 21, 2017 available on their official website. The relevant part of the aforesaid letter is extracted below:
“From approximately 2011 until approximately 2015, employees of CDM Smith’s division responsible for India operations and CDM India illegally paid bribes to officials in the National Highways Authority of India (“NHAI”), India’s state-owned highway management agency and an “instrumentality” under the FCPA, in order to receive contracts from NHAI. The bribes generally were 2-4% of the contract price and paid through fraudulent subcontractors, who provided no actual services and understood that payments were meant to solely benefit the officials.”
The National Highways Authority of India has compiled the list of all the consultancy assignments awarded to the said firm and its associates. The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) and the National Highways Authority of India have initiated steps to obtain the supporting documents so as to take the matter to logical conclusion. MoRTH has taken up the matter with the Ministry of External Affairs as well as the Indian Embassy in USA to liaise with U.S. Department of Justice to obtain the information and records gathered by them during their inquiry.
Incidentally, it may be mentioned that the NHAI had debarred the said firm for a period of 3 (three) months in 2015 from participating/ engagement in future bidding of NHAI projects because of deficiency in services in one of the projects, i.e. Dholpur- Morena Section of NH-3. Similarly, in a lone assignment awarded to the said firm, the NHIDCL has debarred the said firm this year for a period of two years.”
For (c)& (d), the Minister said in his reply that the Central Vigilance Commission of India has constituted a Special InvestigationTeam of three officers to investigate the matter and report to Commission.
(e) Details of projects wherein CDM Smith was engaged by NHAI for Engineering Consultancy Services along with the status of their completion has been attached at Annexure-1.
Newsroom24x7 had taken the lead in pubslishing about the alleged payment of bribe on 11 July 2017 under the heading “BRIBES LINKED TO NHAI CONTRACTS: CDM SMITH TO PAY THE US TREASURY OVER $4 MILLION FOR FCPA VIOLATIONS”
There was also a connected news item published by Newsroom24x7 on 23 July 2017 under the heading “AS BRIBERY CHARGES FLY NHAI AND FERTILIZER BUSINESS COME UNDER SCANNER; MONEY LAUNDERING NOT RULED OUT“