iconimg Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Shailesh Gaikwad, Hindustan Times
Nagpur, December 22, 2012
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on Friday slammed the civic body for increasing the cost of road projects in Mumbai and spending an additional Rs. 702 crore of the taxpayers’ money without following procedure.

“This has not only violated the Mumbai Municipal Act and the directives circulated by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, but it has also deprived it of the benefit of competitive rates,” the CAG remarked in its report on local government bodies, which was presented to the state legislature on Friday.

The CAG scrutinised road works between December 2009 and October 2011, and the Sena-BJP ruled BMC was severely criticised for the poor state of the city’s roads during this period.

HT has been consistently reporting on the sorry state of the city’s roads, the shoddy road work carried out by civic contractors and the irregularities in handing out contracts in its ongoing series, ‘Mumbai’s pothole horror’.

The audit scrutiny has revealed that roadwork contracts originally worth Rs. 1,160 crore were increased to Rs. 1,863 crore without inviting fresh tenders, which is mandatory.

The BMC raised the cost of 30 of 46 cement-concrete roads by Rs. 469 crore and 29 of 42 asphalt roads by Rs. 233 crore, and awarded these additional contracts to the same contractors.

The increased cost, called variation, was 62% for cement-concrete roads and 57% for asphalt roads, the report said.

Responding to the CAG’s objections, the BMC had in November explained that the cost variations were because the scope of work had increased as elected representatives wanted to improve roads in their constituencies.

It also said that because of time constraints, it had been difficult to invite fresh tenders so the additional work was given to existing contractors. The CAG, however, refused to accept this justification and pointed out that the concerned BMC department should have planned to include all roadworks after reviewing the demands of elected representatives.

“The urgency for taking up work as variation to original cost was not justified,” the CAG said.

The BMC also faced flak for the way it handles road maintenance. The CAG report expressed unhappiness over the wasteful expenditure of Rs. 2.34 crore of taxpayers’ money on buying pothole-filling machines.

“As the machines are not used, the investment of Rs2.34 crore became idle with a liability of Rs. 52 lakh towards maintenance for two years.”