Thiruvananthapuram: Soon after the recruitment of gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh, the government reportedly gave another contract of Rs 17.65-lakh to the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) at the Space Park project via Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd (KSITIL).
The task was to prepare a feasibility report and market report for attracting investments from the Antrix corporation, the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), to the Space Park.
Swapna was appointed in the IT department via the PwC on October 21, 2019. The contract on the second work order for preparing reports was entered into on December 30. Of the Rs 17.65 lakh, Rs 10.41 lakh has already been given to the PwC.
But after controversies erupted, the remaining amount was not handed over to the PwC.
Thus, with Swapna Suresh's consultancy charge of Rs 19.06 lakh and the report-preparing contract, the PwC received a total of Rs 29.47 lakh through Space Park alone.
But to prepare the reports, the services of four other PwC’s consultants were sought. Instead of Swapna, if a consultant with expertise in space technologies had been appointed, then there would not have been any need to seek others’ help for preparing the reports.
In the dock?
The PwC has revealed that the recommendation of appointing Swapna Suresh had come from the government itself. This is for the first time that the PwC is making such an allegation in public, cornering the government that tried to put the blame on the multinational consultancy over the appointment of Swapna Suresh. If the PwC reiterates this contention to the Vigilance, then the KSITIL would be in the dock.
In probably the first such instance in the state, a multinational agency, which is the consultant in several major projects, is getting entangled in a legal battle with the government.
The chief secretary-led committee had found that Swapna was appointed based on the recommendation of M Sivasankar, who was also the chairman of the KSITIL. It is suspected that MD Jayasankar Prasad had forwarded Swapna's biodata, as per Sivasankar's directives.
The government had not anticipated that the PwC would approach the court within two days of barring the consultancy firm from the IT department's projects for two years.
The government had refrained from provoking the PwC for five months as it anticipated trouble if the issue was taken up in court.
Though the firm was banned from only the IT projects of the State, this could lead to the PwC from losing out on other government’s consultancy tenders, as per the petition. Firms, that have been blacklisted or facing ban, would be disqualified from taking part in most tenders. For this reason, the PwC urgently sought legal action.
The PwC contended in the High Court that the government order was a violation of the principles of natural justice and unilateral. No show-cause notice was issued before taking action. Nor was an opportunity given for a hearing before the order was issued, it said.