Tuesday 06 Dec 2022

Vigilance calls for probe into Kala Academy renovation



Amid the ongoing debate over alleged fraud in the renovation of the iconic Kala Academy, the Vigilance Department on Tuesday recommended the State government to constitute a three-member technical team to examine the project details. 

The recommendation comes with a rider to exclude expertise from the Public Works Department (PWD), being the execution agency. 

Art & Culture Minister Govind Gaude and the PWD have been in the eye of the storm owing to serious lapses exposed ever since the commencement of the renovation. The critics have even accused a scam of several crores. 

Gaude on his part had claimed that all the requisite procedures were followed while tendering the work. 

Highly placed sources told The Goan that the Technical Committee will probe into the allegations of fraudulent allocation of the work to a selective agency though it was not eligible to undertake the project. Similarly, a huge estimate that got approval from the Pramod Sawant-led cabinet will also be inquired into. 

“The Vigilance Department’s Technical Unit is defunct at the moment due to which the government is recommended to constitute one that should not include PWD experts,” a highly placed Secretariat official told The Goan. 

Two activists Sudip Tamhankar and Avinash Tavares had approached the Anti Corruption Branch (ACB) and Vigilance respectively alleging large-scale illegality and irregularity into the government project. 

The complainants alleged that all legal methods were bypassed and the tender of renovation worth around Rs 56 crore was granted to a selective company or persons. 

The ACB, in its recent report to Vigilance, concluded that while there is a prima facie indication about the scam, a technical examination will ascertain the fraud. As per Tavares’ complaint, the PWD had drafted a letter to the State insisting to allot the KA work to a particular firm stating it had executed and complete the construction of a Goa Bhavan in Mumbai. The reality was otherwise. An estimate prepared by the PWD got approval from the cabinet only to be realised later it was an exaggerated amount. 

“The government and particularly the Cabinet has been misled. The Technical Committee will thus prove into such allegations following which appropriate action will be taken,” said an official. 

Citing a lack of transparency in the ongoing renovation work, architects and domain experts had expressed worry that the architecture layer, especially the interiors, could drastically change in character the iconic edifice and its space.

Experts were also worried that the consultants and contractor would not pay adequate attention to the finer nuances of preserving the architectural and other crucial aspects including acoustics, colour schemes and also retaining in their original form the Mario Miranda murals and work of other artists adorning the several walls.

Designed by renowned architect of Goan origin Charles Correa and built in the early 1980s, the Kala Academy was also renovated once before in 2003-04 when it became the fulcrum of the venues for hosting the International Film Festival of India. 

A similar controversy had erupted during the 2003-04 renovation when the administration of then chief minister Manohar Parrikar completely ignored the convention of consulting the original architect and bypassed Correa.

In the current renovation, too, the State administration has cold-shouldered the Charles Correa Foundation’s offer to come on board and assist in the renovation pro-bono.

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