After a two-year wait, the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) has finally started the audit of the Mumbai Metro project.
According to sources, the exercise may prove to be futile, as the audit will only cover the government’s contribution, while a major part of the project cost—project developer’s expenditure — will be left unaudited. This in effect means the audit will not help in understanding the structure of the expenditure and hence the authorities cannot use it to check the alleged escalation in project cost and fixing of fares.
The government contribution to the Rs2,356-crore project is Rs783 crore, including the viability gap funding of Rs650 crore.
“The audit of just government funds will be useless. If the CAG had carried out the audit of the entire project cost, we would have been in a position to fix the responsibility for delays in project execution and cost escalation. It would also help in fixing fares,” said a source.
The state and project developer— Reliance Infra-led Mumbai Metro One Private Ltd (MMOPL) — are embroiled in a legal battle over the increased project cost and higher fares.
The MMOPL has claimed the cost of the project escalated to Rs4,231 crore from the original Rs2,356 crore owing to various reasons. The fares are being charged in the Rs10-40 range for a one-way journey on the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro corridor, against the state notified fare of Rs9-13.
Two years ago, soon after the Metro rolled out in June 2014, the government had requested the CAG to carry out an audit in order to get clarity on the finances, expenditure, accounts and policy aspects of the project.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had also asked CAG for a special and speedy audit of the project.