In their investigation into the road repairs and reconstruction scam, the Mumbai police have found that the racket flourished with the help of government officials, in particular those from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
According to the police’s investigation, the scam begins when tenders are floated for the construct or reconstruction of roads. The tenders are made – or rather manipulated – in such a way that the conditions stipulated will suit only six favoured contractors, said a police source. “The conditions mentioned in the tender were such that no company other than these six could apply,” said a senior police officer, who did not wish to be named. The scam really gets going when a BMC engineer visits the site and submits an estimate that is 40% higher than the actual cost of construction, added the officer. “Then there is a so-called bidding process, in which the work is assigned to the contractor who lodges the lowest bid,” he said.
Both BMC officials and contractors benefit from this, according to the officer. “About 15% of the total value of the project is distributed among BMC officials involved in the scam, while the contractor makes a profit of between 30 and 35%,” the officer added.
Once the project is completed, a third-party auditor visits the spot and issues bills to the BMC. “To check the condition of road, the auditors would report to the site. They would then send a bill to the BMC, requesting them to clear it. On occasion, bills were issued for projects on which the contractors hadn’t worked. This exposed the scam and lead to their arrest,” said the officer. Another police officer, who also did not wish to be named, said, “To build a road, contractors are supposed to dig to the depth of one foot and lay down four layers with various materials, including crushed stones, bitumen, cement concrete and so on. But in these cases, the contractors used only half of the material needed, substituting the rest with mud and other materials.” “On average, the contractors did not use 53% of the material needed. In some cases, they didn’t use any of the material required to build good roads, which is why we can see potholes after the first rains of the season.”
The report submitted by additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh, who inspected 34 roads included in the first phase of the enquiry, said there were violations in all of them. The inquiry found in most cases, entire layers were missing from the roads. The BMC then filed a police complaint against the six contractors.