LOUIS BERGER BRIBERY SCAM
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, August 17: Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today insisted that the then Guwahati Development Department minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is "answerable and accountable" in the multi-million Louis Berger bribery scam, but stopped short of implicating the former minister.
"I am not saying he took bribe. But as the minister in charge, he is accountable," Gogoi said, days after Sarma claimed that the contracts were awarded after due "scrutiny" of the papers by various departments, including Fince, which the Chief Minister heads.
In an apparent response to Sarma's statement, Gogoi said, "As the CM, many files are placed before me and I sign them. It is the responsibility of the ministers and officers to ensure everything is in order. If the CM could himself check everything, there would have been no need of ministers."
The Chief Minister pleaded complete innocence about the scam but said that there "were indications of some malpractices which led him to order a CID enquiry into the scam".
Gogoi said the enquiry conducted by additiol chief secretary Subhash Das had recommended the CID probe to dig further into the matter.
"There were some grounds that a CID enquiry should be conducted, and hence we promptly ordered it. The CID is quite competent to handle it," he said, pointing that the BJP-government in Goa, which too has been embroiled in the Louis Berger scam, has also ordered a CID probe.
"If Goa orders CBI enquiry or the government of India asks for it, I shall also recommend a CBI enquiry," he added.
Dismissing allegations that he was involved in the scam, Gogoi dared the BJP to prove its charges and said, "If the BJP can prove my involvement, I will quit public life. But if they can't, they must leave public life."
A US court has charged New Jersey-based consultancy firm Louis Berger of paying kickbacks to secure government contracts in India, Indonesia, Vietm and Kuwait between 1998-2010.
The firm was appointed as consultant for a water supply project, being funded by Japan Intertiol Cooperation Agency (JICA), in 2009 in Guwahati and the charges against the firm stated that bribes amounting to Rs 6 million were paid for two water development projects in Guwahati (Assam) and Goa.
The water supply project in Guwahati, expected to be commissioned by November 2016, is being handled by the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA), which is under Guwahati Development Department (GDD).
The Enforcement Directorate is also investigating the scandal.