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NDA Government's ambitious highway project under fire

Special Correspondent

Schedule for completion overshot by one-and-a-half years, says CAG

NEW DELHI: The National Democratic Alliance Govenment's National Highways Development Project was way behind schedule; inconsistencies marked contracts to companies; quality assurance was absent and the corridor concept of facilitating free flow of traffic is "yet to emerge,'' the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India has said.

Extra expenditure

The NDA Government billed it as "the most ambitious highway project since Independence.'' But only one-third of the work was completed when it demitted office last year. Even the completed roads suffered delays of over two years resulting in an extra expenditure of Rs. 700 crores. The entire project has now been rescheduled for completion by this year-end, overshooting the schedule by one-and-a-half years. As a result, the Government lost an opportunity to collect a toll of at least Rs. 560 crores and road users lost potential economy in operating costs of over Rs. 4,000 crores.

Cash deficit

The cash flow projections of the implementing authority, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), were unrealistic.

The cumulative effect, according to the CAG whose report was tabled in Parliement on Wednesday, is that the cash surplus projections will not be achieved and the exchequer may actually suffer a cash deficit. In fact, it will be difficult to maintain the roads and service the loan unless the Government provides an extraordinary grant to the NHAI.

Quality audits revealed that the thickness of layer of the roads was not up to the required standards. In many places the road was susceptible to increased wear and tear because facilities such as drains were not provided.

The problem began from the beginning. The detailed project reports (DPRs), the most critical activity in road construction, were neither accurate nor realistic.

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