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Govt saved 12 pc in construction cost in awarding Dwarka Experssway project, says road ministry sources

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NEW DELHI, Aug 16 (PTI): The government saved over 12 per cent in construction cost against estimates in awarding contracts of Urban Extension Road-II or Dwarka Expressway, and CAG findings that the cost was exorbitant are misplaced as the auditor did not factor in the actual cost, top sources in the road transport ministry said.

According to reports, the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) had found that the National Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI) decision to go for an elevated carriageway on the Haryana portion of the Dwarka Expressway pushed up the construction cost to Rs 251 crore per kilometre from Rs 18.2 crore per km estimated earlier.

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The audit report on the implementation of Phase-I of the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’ highway projects, triggered a political row with the opposition parties alleging corruption in the process of awarding the project.

The ministry sources explained that all four packages of Dwarka Expressway were put for tender at an average civil cost of Rs 206.39 crore per kilometre but the contracts were finally awarded at a lower rate of Rs 181.94 crore per km.

The average civil construction cost of the four packages of the expressway was 12 per cent lower than the estimates, they said.

The sources also explained that the CAG has simply divided the total cost of construction of Rs 91,000 crore under National Corridor Efficiency Programme with the project’s entire length of 5,000 kilometres under development.

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They said the CAG has itself noted that the cost of construction of Rs 18.2 per kilometre does not include the cost norms for flyovers, ring roads, etc.

They are of the view that the expressway in question has elevated roads, underpasses, tunnels and other components which were not part of the project.

The cost of Rs 91,000 crore for 5,000 km under Bharatmala Phase-I project was finalised by the ministry on August 10, 2016 for the year 2016-17 to the extent possible.

According to the ministry, the expressway is the country’s first eight-lane elevated road on single pier with four level interchange facility.

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It has eight-lane 3.6-km tunnel and another six-lane 2.4-km tunnel for connecting it with the Delhi airport.

Besides, it has elevated service roads at major interchanges.

The ministry sources said that they would try to convey their comments on the issue to the CAG and would submit their views whenever it would come up for discussion in the Public Accounts Committee.

On Monday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had alleged that the Narendra Modi government has broken “all records of corruption” after the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) of India reportedly flagged the “very high” construction cost of the Dwarka Expressway.

However, the road, transport and highways ministry in a statement had rejected the charge, calling it as “gross misrepresentation of facts”.

“The Modi government has broken all the records of corruption in the past 75 years,” Kejriwal alleged in a post on X, earlier known as Twitter, sharing a screenshot of a media report on the CAG findings.

Addressing a press conference at the Aam Aadmi Party headquarters here, AAP’s Rajya Sabha member and national spokesperson Sanjay Singh also targeted Prime Minister Modi and said his government is the “most corrupt” since independence.

“The Narendra Modi government constructed the road (Dwarka Expressway) at a cost of Rs 250 crore per kilometer while it was to be constructed at the rate of Rs 18 crore per kilometer,” he had said, citing the CAG report.

Dismissing the charge, the ministry had said the factual position of the cost per kilometer is that in the approval of the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’, such project-wise cost was not approved.

“It only provided overall outlay for the programme. As such, ascribing an increase of cost from Rs 18.2 crore per kilometre to Rs 250 crore per kilometre is gross misrepresentation of facts,” the ministry had said in a statement.

It said that the per kilometer cost of Rs 18.2 crore was considered as “normative cost” for formulation of the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’ for approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

“The civil cost/capital cost of the project being undertaken under the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’ varies based on its design features, terrain and geographical locations,” the ministry had said.

Under the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’, the ministry said, the average cost for special projects enveloping substantial lengths of “bridges/via-ducts/tunnels” is Rs 152 crore per kilometer.

“It may be appreciated that construction cost varies based on the nature of the project,” it had added.

Meanwhile, the AAP on Wednesday protested at the under-construction Dwarka Expressway here.

Several party leaders and workers, including chief national spokesperson Priyanka Kakkar, and Reena Gupta, gathered near the Dwarka Expressway and said the project is a “scam”.

“This is such a big scam that the road, for which an approval of Rs 18 crore per km was given, was built at a cost of Rs 251 crore,” Kakkar told PTI.

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