The Maharashtra government plans to spend Rs78.5 lakh to do up the official bungalows of two ministers from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the office of a third, though large sums had been spent on these structures quite recently.
The state public works department (PWD) has invited tenders for six works in the official bungalows allotted to Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and Education Minister Vinod Tawde, and the office of Housing Minister Prakash Mehta at Mantralaya.
Two bids for Rs 26.3 lakh were for renovation in Tawde’s official bungalow, Sevasadan, at Malabar Hill.
These involve fixing an antique-finish Italian marble stone slab at a “rainforest lawn” area in the bungalow, a gazebo in the house, a Shera board ceiling, steel grill work for windows and Pergo flooring.
Besides, the PWD has floated another bid, estimated at Rs14.99 lakh, jointly for works in Sevasadan as well as Mungantiwar’s bungalow at Malabar Hill, Deogiri.
The work in Sevasadan includes providing courtyard partitions and wooden doors, while the work in Deogiri involves improvements to the kitchen garden, a wooden ceiling in the gazebo and a passage at the back of the building.
Besides, Deogiri will undergo repairs worth Rs10.57 lakh, which includes fixing new wooden ceilings in the kitchen passage, another passage at the back of the building, along with garden-side toilets.
In February this year itself, the PWD had called for nine tenders, cumulatively amounting to Rs1.1 crore, for repairs as well as decorative additions at Deogiri __ in the ante-chamber, garden, visitors’ room, VIP hall, theatre room, gym, guest room and so on. Mungantiwar shifted to the bungalow in January 2016.
According to PWD records, Deogiri, with a built-up area of 557.71 square metres, has undergone works worth Rs2.5 crore from 2010 to 2015. As per the CAG’s observations the maximum permissible expenditure on the structure during the same period was Rs22.8 lakh, and it was possible to construct a new building of the same area for Rs 1.58 crore.
Mungantiwar said, “My office just writes to the public works department if anything needs to be fixed or repaired. We don’t provide a budget estimation or any specifications. That is the department’s job and they have been given a separate budget for that. The department does not tell us what the estimate is either and directly tenders out the work and gets it done.”
He added, “These are government properties and must be kept in the best possible condition and while doing so, whatever is necessary should be spent and unnecessary expenditure should be avoided. After all, all this is not for our personal benefit because the property is not going to be for me to occupy once I leave my post.”
Similarly, between 2010 and 2015, the state government spent Rs3.08 crore on the maintenance and repairs of Sevasadan, which has a built up area of 586.43 square metres, as per the cash book of the executive engineer, presidency division, Mumbai. As per a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for the year ended March 2015, the maximum permissible expenditure on the bungalow during the five-year period was Rs23.95 lakh, and it was possible to construct a new structure of the same built-up area in Rs1.67 crore. The government allotted the bungalow to Tawde in early 2015, soon after the BJP-led government took over the state’s reins.
Tawde was unavailable for comment despite several attempts.
Besides this, the department plans to spend Rs26.65 lakh for upgrades to Mehta’s office on the sixth floor of the Mantralaya annex building. These involve upgrading the minister’s conference room and ante-chamber by getting a new conference table, wall paper, sun control film, tables, full height partitions, a storage unit, fixed glass and a Burma teak door shutter. The housing minister’s office underwent certain structural changes last year as well.
Mehta did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him. An official from Mehta’s office said, “What more will the minister say? All the work is being done very transparently and tender documents, cost estimations as well as details of work are there in the public domain.”
An official from the PWD’s Mumbai presidency division, which looks after the repairs and maintenance of the ministers’ offices and official residences, said, “We keep getting letters from the offices of ministers requesting certain works in their offices and bungalows. Almost always the request is granted, irrespective of whether it is for functional repairs or decorative renovations. The department does cost estimations and invites tenders.”