From dry days and waivers to issues not being discussed with the council of ministers and the L-G — a Directorate of Vigilance report on alleged irregularities in the new excise policy and its implementation states that officials did not follow procedures and tender terms and tried to provide undue benefits to liquor licencees, it is learnt.
One of the cases the report zeroes in on is the refund of Rs 30 crore earnest money (EMD) to a licencee who had bid to set up shops at Delhi airport, officials said. When bidders were given licences, the policy stated that only those who are not successful in bidding would be refunded the EMD. The excise department, however, extended refunds to bidders who despite being successful, could not get a no-objection certificate from the Airport Authority. Officials said the planning department had raised “serious concerns” regarding the refund.
The minister, Manish Sisodia, however, said the EMD should be refunded if the applicant fails to obtain NOC from airport authority in 30 days’ time. In any case, if the bidder does not get an NOC, the offer has to be given to next bidder, he said. Sources said he told officials there is no loss and the clarity will encourage a genuine bidder to bid. The clause to refund the EMD was passed after licences were awarded.
Officials said the vigilance department raised questions regarding the failure of excise department officials to seek approval from the Council of Ministers and office of the L-G for changes in the policy after the first draft was cleared by the office of the L-G in May 2021.
According to officials, the vigilance department also raised issues with the way the number of dry days was decreased from 21 to 3 in January. Officials said the decision was taken without approval of the office of the L-G. Despite the fact that the number of days when liquor could be sold was increased, no effort was made to realise additional revenue for increase in the number of sale days, officials said.
Officials said the report also points out that in 2015, when the total number of dry days in the city were 23, a similar proposal to bring them down to 3 was made to maintain parity with neighbouring states but the proposal was rejected without giving a reason.
Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inbox
Officials said that while licence fee waivers worth Rs 144 crore were given to licencees in view of closure because of the Covid wave drive by the Omicron variant, the amount waived was more than it should have been. The government was of the view that as a responsible government, waivers and help was provided to several sections of society, officials said. Many licencees had also approached the Delhi High Court with grievances. The court then asked the Excise department to deal with the representations in 7 days and the decision to wave fee on a pro-rata basis was taken.
Officials said the vigilance department contended that while loss of sale for licencees was around 21%, waivers to the effect of 24% were provided.