HomeUncategorisedDwarka Expressway Cost 14 Times More Than Sanctioned, Says Government Auditor

Dwarka Expressway Cost 14 Times More Than Sanctioned, Says Government Auditor

The cost of the Dwarka highway built under the Centre’s Bharatmala Pariyojana phase-1 has exceeded the amount approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in 2017 by 14 times, the government’s top auditor Comptroller and Auditor General or CAG has found.
The report said the Expressway, prioritised to de-congest NH-48 between Delhi and Gurugram by developing it into a 14-lane national highway running parallelly, was built at a “very high” per km cost of Rs 250.77 crore against the CCEA approved per km cost of Rs 18.20 crore.

The report quoted the Ministry of Road Transport and Highway’s response on this from April 2022, saying the “Dwarka Expressway was decided to be developed as an eight-lane elevated corridor with minimal entry exit arrangements to allow smooth movements of inter-state traffic”. This was cited as a reason for the high cost.

But the Comptroller and Auditor General of India said there was no justification on record for planning/construction of eight lanes (elevated lanes) for average daily traffic of 55,432 passenger vehicles. Only six lanes (at grade lanes) were planned/constructed for the average annual daily traffic of 2,32,959 passenger vehicles.

This is not the only highway with a mismatch of approved and actual costs. The report revealed that across India, the sanctioned cost under the Bharatmala Pariyojana were 58 per cent higher than the approved cost.

The sanctioned cost of 26,316 km of project length was Rs 8,46,588 crore (Rs 32.17 crore/km) as against CCEA approved length of 34,800 km at cost of Rs 5,35,000 crore (Rs 15.37 crore/km).

Despite the increasing cost, the 2022 deadline for completing 34,800 km of national highways has not been met. Only 13,499 km of national highways length has been completed till 31 March 2023, which is 38.79 per cent of CCEA approved length. This includes the construction undertaken during the COVID pandemic.

About the stark increase in costs, the report said significant changes were made in the scope of projects and cost estimates. Also, richer project specifications adopted have pushed up the sanctioned cost of projects awarded under Bharatmala Pariyojana Phase 1. This has resulted in a cost increase of Rs 10 crore per km of construction.

Given the need for more funds, funds approved for other schemes (Rs 1,57,324 crore) were being utilised. So far, 78 such projects (1,752 km taken together) approved under other schemes, were being reported as achievements of Bharatmala Pariyojana Phase-1 as on 31 March 2023, the report said.

The discrepancies didn’t just exist in fund management. Even the appraisal and approval mechanisms decided by CCEA were also not strictly followed, the report said.

CAG said here were cases of successful bidders not fulfilling tender condition or bidders being selected on basis of falsified documents. Work has been awarded without there being approved detailed project reports or was based on faulty detailed project report.

It added that implementing agencies were still awarding projects without ensuring availability of requisite land, resulting in delayed commencement of projects construction and their completion. Also, many Bharatmala projects were being implemented without environmental clearance in contravention of prescribed procedure.

It added that safety consultants too were not ensured at all stages of construction. Due to wrong computation of price-adjustment formula in case of some projects, contractors/concessionaires were paid excess price adjustments to the tune of Rs 99.16 crore. There was diversion of funds to the tune of Rs 3,598.52 crore from escrow accounts for HAM/BOT projects, the report added.

But the report added that the pace of per day project length constructed under Bharatmala Pariyojana has improved from 1.04 km in 2018-19 to 12.37 km in 2022-23.

Another CAG report, released on the same day, said toll rules have been violated across several states in south India, leading to an undue burden of Rs 154 crores on road users.

Due to non-implementation of NH Fee Amendment Rules 2013, NHAI continued to collect user fee in three toll plazas (namely Nathavalasa, Chalageri, Hebbalu) during delayed period of construction though the amended rule said no user fee shall be levied for the delayed period. The road users continued to pay user fee during the delayed period of the projects.

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