While the civic body has started the procedure to appoint third-party auditors to review all its works in the city, activists were measured in their appreciation for the move.
In 2011, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had, for the first time, appointed an external auditor —Swiss firm SGS Consultants — to conduct regular inspections of all its road projects and monitor work done by contractors. However, no action has been initiated so far by the BMC against the contractors the company found fault with.
“In spite of repeated reports presented by SGS consultants, there have been no tangible consequences, seeing as the condition of roads has not improved. There is a need for stringent action against errant contractors,” said Rais Shaikh, Samajwadi Party group leader in the BMC.
He also questioned the need for the external auditors at a time when the BMC’s in-house auditing department is short-staffed. “The civic body is not placing faith in its own engineers. Both external audits and internal supervision are required for the system to be effective,” he added.
However, others said the system would be a useful way to keep an eye on defaulting contractors if the BMC backed this with immediate action.
“It is a good move to involve third-party auditors to verify works. But after receiving the reports, the administration must also take immediate corrective action in case a flaw has been pointed out,” said Prakash Sanglikar, former deputy municipal commissioner.
As part of the proposed audit, multiple firms will be brought in to assess and furnish reports on the works undertaken by various civic departments.
The firms will oversee all kinds of projects including water supply, sewerage networks and construction of bridges and storm water drains (see box), from the time the tenders are being created and once the projects are underway.
“It could take around two years for the system to stabilise, and for the BMC to introduce reforms based on the auditor’s remarks,” said opposition leader Dnyanraj Nikam.