Andhra Pradesh Information and Public Relations Minister Perni Venkataramaiah (Nani) said that a cabinet sub-committee had conducted an inquiry into irregularities in various schemes implemented by the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government led by Chandrababu Naidu, to the tune of Rs 850 crore. The sub-committee has reported that corruption amounting to nearly Rs 200 crore had taken place in the AP Fibernet project, intended to provide high-speed internet to households across the state. In addition, probes into certain welfare schemes during festivals allegedly revealed discrepancies to the tune of Rs 150 crore.
"In the primary investigation, it was found that a large number of irregularities, including nepotism, have taken place in the AP Fibernet Project. The project was allotted to people who are not qualified for carrying out the project, and nearly Rs 200 cores of corruption has taken place in the project. It was allotted to Terra Software, a company owned by Vemuri Harikrishna Prasad, who is very close to the TDP leadership," a statement from the Chief Minister's Office said.
The Andhra Pradesh state cabinet held a meeting on Thursday to approve several key decisions related to various projects and welfare schemes. Addressing the media after the meeting, Perni Nani said that the state government has approved the sub-committee's recommendation to initiate a CBI probe into the alleged irregularities that took place during the previous TDP term, in the AP Fibernet project and other schemes.
"Misappropriation added to corruption and nepotism took place right from acquiring set top boxes to appointment of officials and showing favoritism while implementing contracts. The contract was given to Terra Software setting aside the bid of a Central Government institution, though it was the lowest bidder.
Even during the distribution of set top boxes, four companies were called and the government agreed to share the contract, but in reality only Terra Sofware was given the entire distribution of work," the CMO statement alleged.
YSRCP had previously alleged that the firm, which was allocated the project was linked to Heritage Group, which is associated with former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s family.
The Minister also said that the sub-committee’s inquiry revealed irregularities in Chandranna Sankranthi and Christmas Kanuka, and Ramzan Tohfa schemes. These schemes involved the free distribution of various essential commodities like grains, pulses, flour, oil etc. to ration card holders on the occasion of various festivals. The cabinet has asked the committee to carry out a deeper investigation and identify the persons responsible for the irregularities.
“There were glaring mistakes in the procurement of supplies, and in giving out tenders, in violations of norms,” Perni Nani said, adding that nearly Rs 150 crores worth of corruption was identified on preliminary investigation.
The cabinet also approved a few other decisions, including the setting up a Tribal Engineering College in Vizianagaram district’s Kurupam mandal, under the administration of JNTU (Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University), Kakinada. The Minister said that the state government would spend around Rs 150 crore on setting up the college, and that 50 % of the seats are likely to be reserved for students from Scheduled Tribes.
A Telugu and Sanskrit Academy is also proposed to come up, possibly in Tirupati.
Under YSR Cheyutha, women from OBC, SC, ST and minority communities will receive financial assistance of around Rs 18,000 every year for the next four years. Under another scheme for small business owners, and vendors selling wares on push carts and baskets, as well as artisans engaged in handicrafts, the government has decided to provide zero interest loans of Rs 10,000. Under the scheme, the government will reportedly bear up to Rs 56 crore in annual interest, on behalf of the beneficiaries.
The cabinet also approved a decision to boost nutrition programs for mothers and infants, by increasing spending on such programs.
The guidelines for the government’s housing scheme for poor families have been altered as per High Court orders, to allow sale of the house only after the beneficiary has lived in it for a minimum period of 5 years, Perni Nani said.
The DPR (Detailed Project Report) for the Ramayapatnam Port project, submitted by the engineering consultancy firm RITES, was also approved by the cabinet.
The cabinet also approved the release of funds worth Rs 522.85 crores for rehabilitation of oustees of the Gandikota reservoir project. Funds worth Rs 1,301.56 crore were also approved for the R&R (rehabilitation and resettlement) work in the Veligonda irrigation project.