Despite the recent stinging indictment by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) of its flawed procedures, the civic body has gone ahead with yet another eyebrow-raising expenditure.
In a first, the civic body has almost doubled the cost of development and maintenance of open spaces, strip gardens and traffic medians in the city during the tendering process, without calling for new tenders.
The civic body had initially floated tenders worth Rs97 crore for developing and maintaining gardens across the city’s seven zones. Without any explanation, the civic body’s gardens department then hiked the cost of the same tender to Rs176 crore, a whopping increase of more than 80%. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) did not even advertise this change.
While the overall cost of all these works was hiked by 80%, the cost of some sub-contracts went up by as much as 280%, as in the case of Zone VII, which comprises northwestern suburbs of Borivli and Dahisar.
The BMC first floated this tender on March 14; the last date for the tender’s submission was April 8. The BMC then issued repeated corrigenda to these tenders, making minor modifications. Between March 14 and April 12, when the tenders’ extended sale period expired, the BMC issued six corrigenda. HT has a copy of all the corrigenda issued.
However, nowhere in any of these corrigenda did the BMC mention the cost of work was being hiked. These escalations go from between 107% to 280%.
Incidentally, despite hiking the cost of these contracts, the BMC did not raise the standard of contractors it was soliciting. A contractor, who participated in the process, said, “The criteria used to appoint contractors for carrying out work worth Rs6 crore cannot be the same used to appoint contractors to carry out work worth Rs22 crore. The BMC should have made a distinction.”
Incidentally, most of the contractors short-listed as the lowest bidders for these contracts have bid extraordinarily lower than the BMC’s estimate.
Additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta, when contacted, said he was unaware of the issue. An official from the gardens department said, “This was a minor technical mistake in calculating the estimate on our part. We had rectified it.”