Congress corporator and opposition leader in the civic body Pravin Chheda filed a petition with the Maharashtra Lokayukta on Thursday alleging irregularities and corruption in the procurement of penguins by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
The civic body got eight Humboldt penguins from Korea in July. One of them, a one-and-half-year-old penguin named Dory, died on October 23 at the Byculla Zoo.
In his two-page letter, Chheda requested a detailed report on how the penguins were obtained and how their enclosures at Byculla were constructed. He said the Lokayukta should direct the municipal commissioner to hold an independent inquiry into the project and register a first information report (FIR) against the contractor.
Dory died of a bacterial infection and a dysfunctional liver. Despite medical services and round-the-clock observation, the penguin did not respond to the treatment for around a week. Its death has brought the focus back to the zoo's poor maintenance and much-delayed revamp.
The contractor, Highway Construction Company, forfeited Rs1.4 crores — the deposit amount — for not fulfilling a crucial tender clause. The contractor was to enter into a joint venture with US-based SIVAT Services, which specialises in aquatic systems. It claimed to have struck a deal with the Texas-based company when no such deal existed.
"Without a technical partner such as SIVAT services, it is not possible to complete the project as Highway Construction Company has no expertise or experience in constructing penguin enclosures,” wrote Chheda.
Disappointed with irregularities and delays in the revamp of the zoo — ruling party Shiv Sena's pet project for the city — the civic body had asked Highway to only complete work on the penguin enclosures.For the remaining work, which includes repairing and building other enclosures, the civic body has floated two new tenders, civic officials confirmed. The cost of building the penguin enclosures is Rs50 crores.