Bengaluru: The tug-of-war between contractors and Congress government in Karnataka is escalating as the government has decided to withhold contractors’ bills pending investigation over allegations of rampant corruption during the previous BJP government.
The President of Karnataka Contractor Association D. Kempanna on Friday held a press conference and said that the government has not released pending bills for seven months.
He asked the government to clear the bills by August 31.
Kempanna said that due to the model code of conduct the bills were not cleared a month before the elections. The elections are over and the Siddaramaiah led government will complete three months on August 20.
“No step has been taken in this period to clear bills of contractors,” he said.
He said that the delegation representing the contractors have also met the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister twice and asked them to intervene.
“The memorandums have also been submitted to RDPR, IT and BT Minister Priyank Kharge and Minister for PWD Satish Jarkiholi. All sought time and then forgot about it. The government has released a circular on June 28 and July 30 in connection with releasing of pending bills but the circular has not been honored,” he said.
He said that the concerned officials say that there is no order from the concerned ministers to clear the bills.
“The government is turning a blind eye to the plight of contractors? The works are done in PWD, water resources, rural development and panchayat raj departments. The contractors have brought crores on loans to work by pledging the properties. In such a situation what should we do?” Kempanna asked.
He said that in certain departments, the funds are kept for clearing bills.
“The government has given Rs 675 crores to be released to contractors who have carried out work in the limits of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). But, the BBMP Commissioner is claiming that he has not got orders from the higher ups to release the bills,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has said that his government will pass the litmus test.
“We will take allegations against us as a challenge. We will win this litmus test and prove before the people that ours is not only a good government but transparent, pro-people and excellent government,” the Chief Minister wrote on X.
Siddaramaiah explained that before elections the party had assured to get the investigation done on the corruption and scandals of the previous BJP government in the state.
The people of the state have reposed faith on the promise and voted against the corruption, commission menace and looting of tax money by the BJP and enabled victory of 135 Congress candidates.
“It is our duty to keep the word and the 40 per cent commission scam of BJP has been given to the judicial probe led by the retired justice B. Veerappa,” he said.
He said that during the tenure of BJP government, the bills were taken without executing work or bills were taken for old works or also for half done works. The judicial probe is investigating the matter. It is not appropriate to release the bills before the investigation report, he said.
He said that the contractors should not have fears.
“For those who have genuinely got the work done will be safe. But, those who have committed fraud must be punished,” he said.
BJP party has been alleged of taking 40 per cent commission as bribe which was one of the major election issues racked up by the Congress during the recent assembly polls in the state.
Former chief minister Basavaraja Bommai had demanded intervention of Rahul Gandhi for clearing of pending bills withheld by the Congress government in Karnataka.
“After seeing the demands of Bommai, it seems he has more trust in Rahul Gandhi and lacks trust in the efficiency of PM Modi,” Siddaramaiah taunted.
He said that the small, medium contractors and BBMP Contractors’ Association had already discussed the matter with him regarding payment of bills.
“The directions have been given for releasing bills for certain works. After the completion of routine procedures the bills will be released,” he said.
He said that the contractors have told the media that few of the contractors are issuing statements to the media for selfish and ulterior motives.
“We are not behind commission. Do you need more proof of our commitment to target corrupt contractors,” the Chief Minister said.