Govt alarmed over functioning of toll plazas by pvt players including R Infra
In a major breach of contract, the government has raised serious concern over the functioning of ‘toll plazas’ operated by private players including Reliance Infrastructure Ltd. for suppressing the ‘escrow accounts’.
The total volume of the ‘irregularities’ was found to be around Rs. 903 crore, which was raised but was not deposited in the escrow accounts as per agreed terms by the private players. The ‘escrow account’ is a temporary pass through account held by third party during the process of a transaction (of toll collection) between the two parties. It was learnt that on March 10, 2010, the NHAI had an agreement with the M/s PS Toll Road Pvt. Ltd of Reliance Infrastructure for the development, maintenance and management of National Highway No. 4 (approx. 140.35 km).
In the agreement it was decided to augment the existing road of nearly 140.35 km on the Pune-Satara section of National Highway No. 4 in Maharashtra to six-Lane under Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer (DBFOT) basis.
However, it was found that despite incomplete work ‘as per the Concessionaire Agreement (CA) with the NHAI,’ the company continues to collect toll from October 1, 2010 to March 2014. Sources said, during these periods they managed to collect more than Rs. 500 but ‘surprisingly’ diverted nearly half of the amount (till August 2012) and invested it in Reliance Liquid Fund (RLF), which is against the CA.
It was found that on September 1, 2014, M/s PS Toll Road Pvt. Ltd in a letter to the NHAI’s Project Director claimed that work has been completed on the on the Pune-Satara section. A senior official of the company Nagendra Rai in his letter to NHAI mentioned, “We would like to inform that the old toll plaza structure has been completely removed and the surface treatment has been completed.”
But, on September 9, 2014, the General Manager (Tech), NHAI, Rajesh K. Kaundal in a reply letter, to the company mentioned that, “It is seen that concessionaire has submitted the compliance after a period of about nine months and that to it is incomplete action on the part of concessionaire, as removal of old toll plazas structure is yet to be done. In view of above it is requested to take immediate action on removal of the structure without loss of further time.”