NTPC reported 19 cases of contractor irregularities in three years

Running India’s largest power producing company, NTPC, which is supplying over one-fifth of the country’s power, comes with its own challenges. One of these includes dealing with bribe, contract irregularities, and forged bank guarantees.

NTPC has found 19 cases of irregularities in terms of contracts over the past three years, according to the data shared in the Lok Sabha on November 28. The details were shared in response to a query on whether there were cases of irregularities due to connivance of officials with contractors in NTPC.

An email query sent to NTPC on Friday remained unanswered.

The reply to a question states that one of the company officials was caught red-handed accepting a bribe from a contractor at its Ramagundan plant, Andhra Pradesh. In another case, an irregularity was found while implementing the Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan in Bihar at the Bhartiya Rail Bijlee Company (BRBCL), which is a NTPC joint venture for the Nabinagar thermal power plant.

Other irregularities listed in Parliament reply include cases of theft of steel, corruption in land acquisition, and submission of forged bank guarantees. Certain former top officials of the company have also been investigated in some of these cases.

In the land acquisition case, for instance, a case has been investigated against a former chief executive officer of BRBCL. The Parliament reply does not identify the officer. Other company officials investigated for some of these 19 irregularities included former director of finance and a former chief vigilance officer.

Of the 19 irregularities, seven cases are under investigation by the Central Bureau of investigation (CBI), the data shows. In the bribe case at Ramagundan plant, the power ministry said: “Charges (for this case) were proved during a departmental inquiry. Charged official (however) obtained a stay from the Andhra Pradesh High Court. Efforts being made to get stay vacated.”
NTPC’s 2018-19 annual report states that 110 complaints were investigated by the vigilance department during the year, of which 58 were finalised and the remaining were under investigation as of March 31.

“There is a difference in irregularities when one speaks of public and private companies. In the public sector, irregularities are mainly related to the agencies (contracts), however, for public sector it can be beyond that, sometimes at the promoter level. For public sector, the company itself is seldom involved in a fraud,” said JN Gupta, co-founder and managing director of Stakeholders Empowerment Services, a proxy advisory firm.

NTPC has stepped up efforts to curb such practices at the agency level. Moving to digital transactions, for instance, is one such step, the company’s annual report suggests. For its travel and stay reimbursements, the company has moved to issuing SBI travel cards and online mode for hotel bill payments as vigilance measures. Last year, the company put in place new guidelines to address abnormally high and low-quoted rates by the agencies in corporate contracts.

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