The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) plan to ensure greater efficiency in the way contractors spend your money has backfired.
To make it easier for small-time contractors to bid for the civil works contracts, the civic body had reduced the deposit for the contractors who bid low. Consequently, in the bids that opened on Wednesday, civil works contractors (CWC) have bid as low as 60% below the estimated cost, the lowest in more than six years.
The contracts are crucial to the city as the taxpayers’ money is spent on the works. Though the civic body has spent a whopping Rs4,414 crore on civil works, a note written by a senior civic official in March had exposed how the money was being pocketed by a nexus of corrupt contractors, officials and corporators. Hindustan Times had, in a series of reports, highlighted the lack of monitoring and supervision, which ensured that most of the money spent by the BMC would be wasted.
Acting on the reports, the civic body took several corrective measures. However, the bids in the range of 40-60% will once again result in poor quality of work, said civic officials. “There is no justification for such low bids. This is a direct result of the fact that senior civic officials reduced the deposit to be paid for low-bidding contractors. No one is now afraid of bidding low,” said an official of the planning and development department.
In the earlier system, a contractor who bid less than 12% of the estimate had to pay thrice the deposit amount for every percent. This meant that the deposit would progressively increase as the bidder went lower. However, former civic chief Subodh Kumar decided to reduce the deposit to a flat 10%, if the contractor bid less than 12%.
Congress corporator and member of the standing committee Asif Zakaria said: “How can the commissioners make policies without learning about ground realities? Slashing the deposit means that any small-time contractor can now bid as low as he want, without worrying about the repercussions. Such low bids are a sham and just prove that these contractors don’t carry out any work.”
Additional municipal commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar, a part of the team who decided to slash the deposit, did not respond to HT’s queries.