In an unprecedented move, civic chief Ajoy Mehta has ordered the 32 contractors, whose shoddy pre-monsoon nullah desilting work led to flooding in the city on June 19, be blacklisted. The civic commissioner has set a three-month deadline for the report on the inquiry into the functioning of the storm water drain department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
The contractors and the civic officials involved in the Rs38-crore desilting scam, which involved submitting fake bills for the desilting work, will face legal action as recommended in the probe report. Mehta’s orders come in the wake of the detailed inquiry report into the nullah desilting scam by additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh, which HT has accessed. The probe was ordered after a preliminary inquiry into the June 19 flooding blamed contractors and civic officials for inadequate cleaning of storm water drains in various parts of the city.
A first information report (FIR) has already been filed against seven contractors, and similar action has been recommended against the remaining contractors, Mehta said in his report. The issue is likely to become a political controversy ahead of the winter session of the legislature, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanding criminal action against contractors, and the civic officials and the Congress demanding an FIR against leaders of the Sena-BJP, the ruling parties in the BMC.
The report further states the contractors, in connivance with civic officials, attempted a scam worth Rs38 crore, which was 70% of the total amount of the desilting contracts for 2015-2016, by submitting fake bills that were approved by civic officials. The report has recommended serious administrative action against civic officials involved in helping contractors in fraudulent practices.
A departmental inquiry, too, has been initiated into the functioning and a report on it will be submitted to the civic chief within three months, said senior civic officials. “There was an attempt to con the civic body of Rs38 crore. All officials concerned, who turned a blind eye to the fraudulent practices, will have to face serious administrative action as recommended in the report. The report has also recommended an FIR against all contractors,” said a senior official.
The detailed inquiry report was made after a scrutiny of 57,561 transport trips and 23,800 log sheets and vehicle tracking system records submitted to the civic body. The tender conditions and the records submitted by the contractors, too, were scrutinised thoroughly. Like the earlier report, the detailed report mentions malpractices such as use of two-wheelers, jeeps and other light vehicles, instead of the open dumpers specified in the tender conditions.
The report on nullah desilting is likely to be tabled in front of the standing committee members in the meeting to be held next week and the stated action will be announced after discussing the report in length in the meeting.
The preliminary probe report, which revealed serious malpractices in nine desilting contracts, had led to the suspension of 14 civic officials.