Alemao can't run away from his own mess

The biggest challenge facing any credible newspaper is not breaking a story or ripping apart deception, lies and corruption that lies beneath several files and documents. The challenge is to sustain it.

| AUGUST 14, 2012, 02:42 PM IST

The continuance of any investigation like the one The Goanon Saturday has undertaken gets progressively difficult since doors that openeda little easily, don’t anymore after the initial stories have been reported andpublished. 

The challenge is also to keep your focus on what the realgoal should be. Is it the arrest and punishment of the minister and hisbureaucrats? Is arrest the fittest punishment? Is arrest a punishment at all and is it better to identify the kingpinsrather than haul in the entire bureaucracy starting with the Principal Chiefengineer right down to the clerk who writes the work order register? The summitis actually beyond these hurdles. It is in getting the lost money of the peopleof our land back. Arrest and jail is after all a process of containment forinvestigation. The wealth accumulated and the assets acquired out of thatwealth is never seized or returned. Our chase is not for the blip of anexcitement of sending a politician to jail but to get the money spent unfairlyfrom the treasury so that kickbacks could be given, back to the treasury.  

This process of getting the excess money spent in awardingPWD tenders is cumbersome and may not actually see the light of day, because itinvolves the following. Calculating the excess sanctioned on each work order,above the actual cost for work for a period of five years- the term of theprevious government, calculating the number of ghost tenders for which work wasnever really carried out and the cost of the multiple tenders awarded for thesame stretch of roads, may take months.

 A thumb rule or aneasier calculation would be to whip out a calculator and figure what 30% of theentire PWD work rendered amount was in the past five years. We are likely toreach a pretty credible and yet conservative estimate of the total loss. Thenext big ask? Was the previous government hostage to a corrupt bureaucracy? Dowe believe Churchill Alemao when he says “Officers should be punished becausethey were doing everything?” Sure they were. They were doing everything theywere commanded to do verbally. They had jobs and careers. In the process ifthere was a grab at some notes to a little bit of extra graft, we are sure theestablishment winked and looked away. We say, forget the small change for thetime being.

It will be grave travesty if the massive irregularities andcorruption in the Public Works Department is placed on the desk of officers who were literally yelled at and abusedto do what they were told to by their political masters and in some cases,their relatives. The British empire may have become a fiefdom of thebureaucracy, but Goa’s empire is surely the fiefdom of its elected emperors andnot its paid servants. A good bureaucracy thrives on a single source ofauthority, and the freedom to create and implement policy in the name of thatauthority. But here the authority rules for itself. Most government departmentsin Goa don’t follow a politcal path but a whim path. The steady dedicationtowards maximising profits for the politician and his family is the onlypolicy.

Your newspaper has moved into several divisions of the PWDto unearth much more corruption and irregularities than you can even imagine.Most of the violations will be sought to be dismissed as irregularities, towhich we have one question. If the people’s money has gone out of the treasurythrough fraudulent means, it is an act of grave corruption. Check this. InDivision 25, a contractor in the A list of favoured contractors of the lastregime (once the documents are with us, we shall do a full disclosure) did notcomplete the contract work in 2008. In 2010, two years later, he asked for anextension which was given in July 2012 (last month) for incomplete work of2008. Yet, all his bills, less a paltry amount of Rs 24,000 have been cleared.Let readers judge, if this is an “irregularity” or an “illegality”. And who doyou blame, the bureaucracy? Of course not.

For long, politicians caught on the wrong foot pass theblame to officers who they forced to commit illegalities. The government babuin Goa competes with the best tissue paper in the world, which people likeChurchill use and throw. The bureaucrat has responsibility without power. Hecould take his revenge through deviation, delay or prevarication but he cannotsupersede the minister.

This piece however is in no way a defence of those whowillingly acceded to every ministerial request. There is richness spewing onthe roads of Goa with sales of BMW, Audi and Mercedes, driven by contractorswho used public transport not long ago. Engineers in the department have builtmansions. Wealth is visible everywhere except on the potholed filed roads forwhich work was allotted. But the guiding principle of the scam has been theprincipled extraction of wealth by the political leadership with thebureaucrats allowed a little for their “sweat equity”

But sadly, does this all matter to Goa and Goans? Do theywant to get their money back or does the stink just not reach them. The systemis like rotten weeds but they don’t smell. To quote Shakespeare (with apologiesto the bard for dragging him here) “Lilies that fester smell far worse thanweeds.” And there are no lilies in the PWD, only weeds. 

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