In what appears to be a reminder of misappropriation of funds in the now-infamous Commonwealth Games, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) ruled by the Shiv Sena-BJP combine has allowed contractors to buy stationary for civic schools at a rate higher than the retail price in the market, and that too when it is buying in bulk.
The splurge of the taxpayer's money was approved on Wednesday, though the Sena sought to play down the issue. According to rough estimates, the civic body has paid at least Rs16 crore more to the contractors. And if the retail price of all the 26 items is considered, the excess amount could be much more.
The BMC's standing committee passed tenders worth Rs181.55 crore for buying 26 items to be distributed for free in civic schools.
The civic body will be purchasing 3,71,142 of boxes of oil pastels, at Rs7.53 lakh extra cost. For a geometry box, 30-cm scale and 4B drawing pencil, the cost will be Rs1.27 crore higher than what BMC should have paid.
Doubts have also been raised over the purchase of uniforms for civic school students. The civic body will be spending around Rs40.31 crore to buy school uniforms for boys from junior kindergarten to Class 10. Standing committee member Sandip Deshpande, who compared the rates of uniforms after inquiring with city retailers, alleged that the BMC will be spending Rs16 crore more to contractors, since school uniforms with similar cloth material can be made available for Rs25.30 crore.
Deshpande, who showed the receipts of MRP prices in the standing committee meeting, alleged that tenders rules were drafted to suit certain companies. "I was told that the excess price is due to transportation cost. A contractor supplying goods at higher MRP and blaming it on transportation cost is something which is seen only in BMC tenders," he said.
Shiv Sena leader and standing committee chairman Rahul Shewale denied the allegations of favouring some contractors. "These were open tenders and anyone was free to file one. Those who are alleging misconduct should have filed the tenders. These allegations are being made by those who have been denied tenders. Inflated prices have not been applied and we have followed all the rules while issuing tenders," he said.