The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday searched nine locations in Aurangabad, Pune and Akola districts of Maharashtra to probe irregularities in the tendering process for construction of 40,000 houses under the Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana scheme.

Three firms -- Samarath Construction & JV, Indo Global Infrastructure Services, Jaguar Global Services -- and their respective partners are under the ED scanner for alleged “forgery and formation of a cartel” to illegally get a bid from the municipal corporation of Aurangabad for construction of 40,000 PMAY houses, the ED said in a statement. The houses were to be constructed on seven plots and sites in Aurangabad.

During the searches, the ED said it “has seized incriminating documents, including the note-sheet of the tender file of Aurangabad Municipality from the applicant”. The top brass of the firms will be issued summons to appear before officials for questioning.

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They charged that “it was found that all the three e-tenders were uploaded from a single IP address. The FIR was registered after the PMAY regulators found that the winning firm was not financially capable of implementing such a big project”.

The ED took up the case from the city police, which had filed an FIR against the three bidders and 19 persons under various charges of the Indian Penal Code, including of criminal conspiracy, forgery, cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property. The municipal authorities had approached the police to register the case.

The ED said the investigation revealed that the three firms flouted norms and used the same IP address to apply online for the e-tender. A tender was allotted to Samarath Construction & JV, but they had deposited a bank guarantee of only Rs 88.60 lakh of the total amount of Rs 46.24 crore, the ED pointed out.

Besides that, Samarath Construction & JV also allegedly “subverted” due procedure by getting an extension on the initial tender for 19.22 hectares to 120 hectares without a fresh tender process, the ED charged. “The government subsidy involved in this scam is to the tune of around Rs 1,000 crore,” it said.

The PMAY scheme was floated in 2015 to provide affordable housing to the needy in rural and urban areas by 2024.