The decisions the civic body has taken in the past two days once again raises questions about its seriousness in improving and maintaining the city’s infrastructure. It also gives strength to accusations of a nexus between contractors, the civic administration and politicians.
On Friday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) decided to only impose a fine and give a clean chit to a contractor accused of hiding information. The BMC, in its probe, concluded that the contractor had no malafide intention while hiding the information.
A day earlier, on Thursday, the BMC’s standing committee cleared the controversial Rs 577 crore roadworks project, handing over the contracts to nine firms of which at least four had been fined recently for doing shoddy work on roads they had built.
The firm, RP Shah Infraprojects (RPS Infra), which the BMC said has no ‘malafide intentions’, is also among the four firms that were penalised for doing shoddy work, which resulted in a poor quality road within the defect liability period.
Opposition parties, citizens and former civic officials have been accusing the BMC of ensuring that the same set of contractors keeps bagging the contracts and of overlooking their shoddy work.
“A penalty like this means hardly anything for a company like RPS Infra, which handles projects worth crores at any given point,” said a civic official, requesting anonymity. “If the BMC was serious about setting a strong precedent, it should have de-registered the firm to prevent it from bidding in any future civic contracts.”
One of the big civic contractors, RPS Infra had hidden crucial information, which if revealed would have affected its bidding capacity and made it ineligible.
RPS Infra is building retaining walls along the Mithi river, a contract which it bagged for Rs 97 crore. The cost of this contract has now risen to Rs140 crore.
However, while submitting the bid for roadworks, the firm failed to mention the incomplete Mithi project.
Nitin Shah, owner, RPS Infra, said that of the Rs 43 crore worth of work left, the firm can carry out only that worth Rs 10 crore because of encroachments. “Work on removing the encroachments has been unsuccessful for the past three years. Civic officials in charge of the project told us only a small portion of the work would be carried out,” Shah said.
Congress corporator Sameer Desai said the contractor deserved a harsher punishment. “If it has been established that the contractor has hidden information from the BMC, mere financial penalties cannot suffice. It is too light a punishment,” he said.