MUMBAI: On the road to a pothole-free ride? In a step towards transparency in how road work contracts are awarded, civic chief Ajoy Mehta has made the road tendering process completely online.
Contractors will now have to upload all documents online. Any contractor with the credentials can bid for a project and place a proposal before the civic body through this system.
The road tendering process has been under fire for years because the lengthy process lent itself to corruption — earlier, for a bid to be accepted, contractors would not only upload documents online, but also submit a scanned copy of the earnest money deposit and additional security deposit to the civic body. It was during this process that documents were removed to favour certain contractors, sources said.
The BMC chief’s move comes in the wake of the desilting scam that revealed the strong nexus between civic officials and contractors. Mayor Snehal Ambekar had even written a letter to the BMC, asking it to probe malpractices.
For years, an alleged contractor cartel and the nexus between civic officials and contractors have resulted in the same bunch of 6-7 big contractors bagging all projects. Several contractors quoted 30-40% lower than the cost of work to bag contracts during bidding, only to escalate the cost later.
In some cases, if contractors did not raise the cost, they will make their profits by using sub-standard material to build roads.
To avoid this, Mehta has made it mandatory for contractors to appoint ‘quality-control engineers’ who will also be held responsible for poor work. More than one such engineers will be employed depending on the size of the project.
With the online process, the civic body aims to invite other top firms and private companies that have avoided bidding, owing to complicated or a rigged tendering process.
Activists, however, are not banking on the new system.
“The changes in the tendering process are more or less cosmetic. The nexus between officials and contractors run deep, the city saw that during the e-tendering scam that was also fully online,” said Nikhil Desai, as Dadar-based activist.
This year, the BMC has spent Rs2,000 crore on the road work contracts across the city.
Mehta has also been making surprise visits to crack down on fraudulent practices. Recently, he cancelled road restoration worth Rs8.17 crore in Dadar-Matunga, as the road was in good condition.