The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had in early October confiscated the Rs1.4-crore deposit of the company hired to build enclosures for eight Humboldt penguins at Byculla zoo for claiming to have struck a deal with an aquatic systems company in Texas when no such deal existed.
Highway Construction Company (HCC), which won Rs50-crore contract from the BMC to build the penguin enclosure at the zoo, claimed it had struck a joint-venture deal with SIVAT Services in Austin, Texas, which specialises in aquatic systems. However, the BMC found that no deal had been struck and confiscated the Rs1.4 crore HCC had deposited with it upon winning the contract.
The issue was discussed in the standing committee meeting of the BMC on Wednesday, at which corporators lambasted the BMC over Dory’s death. The penguin died on October 23 of a bacterial infection and a dysfunctional liver just three months after the birds were bought to the city.
Sanjay Deshmukh, additional municipal commissioner, who presided over the meeting, said, “We received emails from the firm saying that there were financial issues with the joint venture. We have already fined the company Rs1.4 crore.”
The BMC had previously scrapped contracts worth Rs120 crore awarded to the same company to revamp the entire zoo. The BMC had awarded Highway Construction Company several contracts, including one to transport the penguins from South Korea to Mumbai; one to build the penguin enclosure; one to build a marine aquarium; and one to conduct ‘general improvement’. Civic officials said frequent delays and flouting of tendering norms were the reasons the contract was scrapped. Romit Chedha, the company’s coordinator for the penguin project, did not respond to calls.
Civic officials associated with the project said two new tenders have been floated to invite bidders to complete the zoo’s revamp. A senior civic official said, “We want the present contractor to only complete work on the penguin enclosures, which is 20% of the entire revamp plan.”
The revamp of Byculla zoo involves building several new enclosures and a marine aquarium for exotic fishes, and procuring new animals. Currently, the zoo houses about 130 animals and 300 bird species.