In what can be called as strange, the MC, bypassing the House decision, has paid the balance amount of `8 lakh to the agency hired to conduct the nine-day controversial tour to Port Blair, Kolkata and Chennai in September last.
During the meeting in December last, the MC had decided not to release the amount until proper probe into the role of the agency, which had failed to provide the services promised. The deal with the firm, owned by BJP councillor Arun Sood’s brother-in-law Sanjeev Sood and nephew Sahil Vaid, was finalised for `28 lakh. The tour — scheduled from August 31 to September 9 last — has been mired in several controversies like overshooting of the sanctioned expenditure and many councillors taking family members along, thereby raising the number from the approved 26 to 40.
Soon after coming from the tour, former mayor Subhash Chawla had even shot off a letter to the then MC commissioner Vivek Pratap Singh, stating the services promised by the agency were not fulfilled, thus its payment shouldn’t be released. Even Vivek Pratap Singh had assured that full payment won’t be given without proper inquiry, and had ordered the probe.
However, no such inquiry was held and the payment was ‘secretly’ released in April, without informing the councillors and even the mayor. Interestingly, instead of deducting `81,000 from the agency, `9,000 each were deducted from nine councillor’s pocket. When contacted, mayor Poonam Sharma said unfortunately, she had not been kept in the loop, and assured probe into the matter after coming back from Mahabalipuram.
Speaking to HT, BJP councillor Satinder Singh said, “It seems the payment was issued under someone’s influence. It is a serious issue. Why such important facts are being kept secret from councillors?” Meanwhile, BJP councillor Heera Negi, in House meeting on Tuesday, demanded that since senior deputy mayor Rajesh Gupta could not go to the study tour, why `60,000 were not refunded to him yet.
Seeking anonymity, another BJP councillor said releasing the pending payment without probe was a conspiracy by Sood and the MC commissioner, who wanted to burden other councillors. Chawla also said, “Shockingly, even after nine months, I have not received a reply of my letter, and now the ‘secret’ payment is surely news for me.”
‘Didn’t hide anything; why should we pay Rs 9,000’
The councillors on Tuesday passed a resolution that penalty of `9,000 imposed on nine councillors, who went to the tour with their families, should be waived. They said since they didn’t hide anything pertaining to the tour, why should they pay the extra amount. The nine councillors who went to the tour included mayor Poonam Sharma, deputy mayor Gurbax Rawat, BJP councillors Arun Sood, Asha Jaswal, Heera Negi and Satish Kainth, independent councillor Gurcharan Dass Kala and nominated councillors MP Kohli and Babu Lal.