The ongoing controversy over purchases for civic schools has a new twist: the Shiv Sena–Bharatiya Janata Party-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), while sanctioning purchase of stationery items at inflated rates on Wednesday, rejected tenders offering shoes for civic-school students at rates Rs30 to Rs50 cheaper than the previous year.
Hindustan Times had last week reported the civic body’s squandering of taxpayer’s money by buying stationery items for schoolchildren at rates higher than that their retail price, despite purchasing them in bulk.
The tender was opposed by the ruling coalition on the ground that it was drawn only for shoes and socks were not included in it. Dilip Patel, standing committee member from the BJP, had raised the opposition in Wednesday’s standing committee meeting, claiming that, last year, shoes and socks were provided at the rate for which only shoes have been offered this fiscal.
But a look at the last year’s purchase tells another story. In 2010-11, BMC paid Rs185.1 and Rs185.25 for a pair of shoes, without socks, for boys and girls in Class 1. This year, the price offered was Rs155, which is Rs30 less. Even the rates of shoes for children from Class 2 to 10 were Rs30 to Rs50 cheaper than what was quoted last year. Shockingly, the cost of a pair of socks purchased by the civic body was between Rs50 to Rs80 last year.
The opposition parties have accused the ruling alliance for favouring certain contractors. “When you sanction tenders for 26 items, why do you leave out only one? Is it to favour certain contractors so that they can file the tender again?” asked Sandip Deshpande, standing committee member from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
“The reason we opposed the tender was because the administration was giving it to a sugar mill. How can a sugar mill produce good quality shoes?” said Patel.
Additional municipal commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar told HT that after receiving complaints from members of the standing committee regarding purchase of stationery, the commissioner has asked her to look into the matter. “We are comparing the quality of material being used by the contractor with that provided by the opposition. The civic body does its own market research before issuing tenders. We will soon come out with a report on allegations of a purchase scam,” she said.