An attempt by BMC’s ruling parties — the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — to get controversial contracts worth Rs 650 crore cleared in the civic standing committee meeting on Wednesday was foiled by Opposition parties.
The proposals included the Rs 221-crore road resurfacing contracts, in which a blacklisted company had bid 20% lower than the civic body’s estimate. Citizen groups have been pointing out how the contractors escalate costs after bagging contracts by bidding lower than the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) estimates.
The Sena-BJP was also pushing to clear the controversial Rs 350-crore contract for filling trenches in Mumbai. Hindustan Times had reported how contractors vying for the project had claimed they will do the job at rates that were 55% to 60% lower than the BMC’s estimate for the job.
The contracts were thus scraped and fresh tenders were floated.
The same contractors then did a complete U-turn, and asked for 3-4% more than the estimated cost.
But in the final proposal tabled on Wednesday before the committee, after negotiations with the administration, the contractors ended up asking for 14% less than the BMC’s estimate.
In total, the administration tabled eight contracts worth Rs650 crore before the committee, terming it ‘urgent business’. The Opposition, however, fumed over the last-minute tabling of the contracts, and questioned why the Sena-BJP was in hurry to clear the proposal.
“What is the hurry to pass the proposals? These are big contracts and include a lot of technicalities, which must be debated and not be cleared under the pretext of urgent business. The contractor shortlisted for road work is blacklisted. The administration needs to explain why such a contractor was awarded the work,” said Sandeep Deshpande, standing committee member and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena corporator.
According to the protocol, the administration must send the standing committee’s agenda three days (72 hours) before the meeting. The eight proposals, however, were sent less than 24 hours before the meeting.
The administration maintained the contracts were urgent business. “The contract period for trench filling will end by January 31, 2015, and if the proposal is not cleared, we will be forced to extend the period,” said SVR Srinivas, additional municipal commissioner.
“The city’s roads need to be resurfaced and repaired before the monsoon and work should begin immediately. Any opposition to these contracts will further delay the matter,” said Yashodhar Phanse, Sena member and standing committee chairman.
The Opposition, however, claimed a debate over the proposal next week will not hamper development work. “The trenches in Bandra, which are under the defect liability period and thus the responsibility of contractor, are yet to be filled. Hurriedly passing a proposal under the guarantee of immediate work orders for trench filling, will not ensure good quality work,” said Asif Zakaria, Congress corporator.
NOT THE FIRST TIME
This is not the first time BMC hastily tabled proposals and sought clearances. In August 2014, the BMC had cleared proposals worth Rs 850 crore in 90 minutes without discussion, just before the code of conduct for the Assembly election.