Two months after it was entrusted with the case, the Crime Investigation Department (CID) of Andhra Pradesh has registered an FIR on the alleged irregularities in AP State FiberNet Limited (APSFL), putting the sum involved at Rs 321 crore.
The FiberNet project was meant to provide Internet and telephone services to all households in the state, as part of the Bharat Net project of the Government of India. The Centre initially provided financial assistance of Rs 3,840 crore for the FiberNet project under the National Optic Fibre Network.
In the FIR registered on September 9, the CID has named 16 persons and two companies as the accused in the case.
Citing a complaint filed by APSFL Chairman P Goutham Reddy, the CID said Vemuri Harikrishna Prasad, then a member of the e-Governance Authority governing council, colluded with Tera Software Limited to ensure the tender for Rs 321 crore was illegally awarded to the company.
The company lacked the necessary qualifications for the award of the tender, the FIR said.
Besides Vemuri Harikrishna Prasad, the CID named then managing director of Infrastructure Corporation of AP K Sambasiva Rao, Tera Software chairman SSR Koteswara Rao, managing director T Gopi Chand and six other directors as accused in the case.
Also, six directors of another company Himachal Futuristic Communications Limited were listed as accused, along with unnamed government officials and others.
A case under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Prevention of Corruption Act has been registered against the accused and the report was submitted to the Special Judge for Anti-Corruption Bureau and Special Police Establishment cases.
On July 11, Energy Secretary Srikant Nagulapalli issued an order directing the Additional Director General of CID to investigate the irregularities and submit a detailed report to the government.
The Central Bureau of Investigation allegedly did not show any interest in taking up the case, though the state government issued a confidential order on July 13, 2020, according to consent to the national agency to exercise powers and jurisdiction "for taking up a regular investigation and follow up action pertaining to the scam in APSFL".
The case was then entrusted to the state CID for investigation.
The YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government constituted a Cabinet Sub-Committee in June 2019 to look into various "financial scandals" committed by the previous Chandrababu Naidu regime in different schemes, causing a loss running into hundreds of crores of rupees.
The Cabinet Sub-Committee headed by Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath found out that the project costs were inflated by at least Rs 700 crore.
Besides, a person with fake certificates was appointed as head of the project.
Also, inferior quality set-top boxes (STBs) were purchased from different companies, sidestepping the lowest bidder (a South Korean firm) that came forward to supply high-end STBs at a lower price.
"This alone cost hundreds of crores of rupees to the exchequer while the project remained unaccomplished," the Cabinet Sub-Committee pointed out.
Based on the Cabinet Sub-Committee's preliminary inquiry report, the state Cabinet on June 11, 2020, decided to order a CBI probe into the case.
But the CBI allegedly did not show any interest in taking up the case, despite the Chief Minister writing several letters to the Centre and also personally taking up the issue with Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
"Tender conditions were relaxed to facilitate the award of work to Tera Software Limited, though the Central Public Sector Enterprise, Telecommunication Consultants India, emerged as the lowest bidder. It was not considered for 'Project Monitoring Authority' on inadequate grounds even though the firm quoted a lesser price but instead, the APSFL chose to call for fresh bids. Non-selection of TCIL was due to the fear that the Central PSE would expose the compromised tender conditions to favour Tera Software Ltd. Hence the decision to seek a CBI inquiry to unearth the massive irregularities," the state had then said while seeking the central agency's probe.
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