Congress for CBI probe into Goa beach cleaning (lead)

Panaji, Aug 12 (IANS) The Congress in Goa has demanded a CBI probe into an alleged multi-crore beach cleaning scam, accusing the state tourism ministry and a private contractor of violating general financial rules while awarding of the contract in 2017.

Addressing a press conference in Panaji on Sunday, state Congress chief Girish Chodankar also said the nine repeated extensions of the beach cleaning contract under section 184 of the Goa government financial rules, which allow the government to allot public works in emergency situations, were illegal and needed to be probed.

"The government gave the work of beach cleaning to the private agency without awarding of tender under GFR 184 which allows the government to award such works in case of emergencies. The contract was then renewed as many as nine times by the tourism ministry," Chodankar said.

"The amount the government has paid the private agency for beach cleaning is Rs 20.20 crore. The entire work done is not worth more than Rs 3 crore," Chodankar further alleged, adding that no extension of the beach cleaning contract should be awarded to the private beach management agency Drishti Marine.

In a statement issued here, Drishti Marine has contested the allegations made by the Congress.

"Our beach cleaning contract expired on July 15, 2019. From July to date, we have extended our work purely on the verbal commitment and assurance of the minister that work order will be released for the interim period of work by revised work order at the earliest. We would be glad to stop work from tomorrow if the government says so. Government has to pay us our pending dues which is in arrears of 8 months," the company said in a statement issued here late on Monday.

Since December 2016, the agency has collected and transported 38,58,400 kg of garbage from along the state's coast and cleaned the beaches, the statement also said.

In the past, the Goa Lokayukta had recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into another beach cleaning contract in its order in 2017.

The issue of alleged corruption in the awarding of beach cleaning contracts also featured in the debates of the recently concluded monsoon session of the state Legislative Assembly.

Goa is one of the top beach tourism destinations in the country and attracts nearly eight million tourists every year.

--IANS

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