Government orders Vigilance probe into the Wadakkancherry Life Mission project

Enforcement Directorate to examine all Life Mission documents

The Kerala government has asked the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau on Wednesday to conduct a comprehensive probe into the charges that were levelled against a Life Mission project to construct 140 apartments in Wadakkancherry, Thrissur, with the financial support of UAE Red Crescent, the UAE wing of the Red Cross.

The probe has been ordered nearly a month after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the government would look into the issues concerning the Life Mission project.

The decision is also seen as a way to calm ruffled feathers within the CPM. The emergence of new information that piled on the suspicion about the project's conduct was a political burden the CPM was not willing to bear. It was clear that questions would be raised about the government stand on the issue at the CPM state secretariat meetings to be held in the coming days.

The spotlight was shone on the Wadakkancherry Life Mission project when the gold smuggling accused Swapna Suresh told her interrogators that the Rs one crore found in her locker was the "commission" she had received for securing the construction deal for Unitac Builders. This was later confirmed by the Unitac MD.

Red Crescent had guaranteed Rs 20 crore for the Wadakkanchery project and Swapna's confession meant that she hd pocketed Rs one crore or 5 percent of the project cost.

However, the state government refused to take responsiblity for Swapna's commission arguing that it had nothing to do with the selection of Unitac or other aspects of construction except for identfying a location for the project.

The government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Red Crescent on July 11, 2019, for constructing 140 flats at 2.17 acres of land at Wadakkanchery under the Life Mission project.

Later, it came to light that the government was aware of Unitac's presence. A letter written by the LIFE Mission CEO was interpreted to even mean that the government itself had proposed Unitac's name.

There was also confusion about the agency with which the Life Mission had entered into a contract for the construction of the flats. The government claimed it had signed the MoU with Red Crescent.

Documents that emerged later revealed that the building contract was signed between the UAE Consulate and the Unitac Builders. It was also not in accordance with the MoU signed between the Life Mission CEO and the Red Crescent representative in the presence of the Chief Minister.

Neither the state government nor the Red Crescent was party to the building contract.

The Chief Minister's insistence on keeping the MoU a secret has intensified suspicions. Even after repeated requests, the government has refused to hand over a copy of the MoU to opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala.

The opposition, however, has sought a CBI probe. For them, a Vigilance probe was just a government attempt to buy time.

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