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Surendra P Gangan, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, May 18, 2013
When the top three floors of the state secretariat were gutted in a major fire on June 21, 2012, it seems the losses did not end with the fire. A year later, the public works department’s (PWD) hefty clean-up bill to remove debris from the floors has raised more than a few eyebrows, with state officials, too, expressing shock at the largesse.

Information provided by the PWD in response to a right to information (RTI) application by HT shows the state spent Rs. 251.98 lakh to just clean the building after a fire gutted three floors last year.

PWD officials said that debris from the site (from top four floors) filled around 400 trucks, and 800 labourers were recruited for the two-week-long cleaning process.

“Disposal of debris does not cost more than Rs. 6,000 per truckload of 12 tonnes. The expenditure should not have been more than a few lakhs — Rs. 30 lakh at the most. Similarly, 800 labourers for 15 days should not cost more than Rs. 40 lakh,” said a former employee of the department.

However, KP Patil, executive engineer, presidency division, PWD, refuted any suggestion of excess. “The amount was spent on removal of debris from the site. The contract was given after due procedure and we removed 400 truckloads of debris.”

The department also pointed out that the iron, steel and other saleable scrap sold from this fetched them Rs. 5.49 lakh. “As the scrap had to be removed immediately, we resorted to spot tendering among a group of scrap dealers through auction. M/S Asif Fodkar, M/S Bashir Barmade and M/S Seemab were the highest bidders. We have video-recorded the tendering process that involved officers from three departments,” Patil said.

However, officers from the general administration department in Mantralaya claim that even usable material from the godowns on the ground floor was taken by the scrap dealers. “Air conditioners in working conditions and cupboards were also dumped as scrap. This negligence of PWD officers has led to unnecessary loss ,” said an officer on condition of anonymity.