The state public works department (PWD) is under fire for bending rules, flouting norms and squandering away taxpayers’ money in favour of contractors between 2010 to 2015 as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) ripped the department apart for serious inadequacies in functioning.
The CAG has sought explanation on excess budgetary allocation, awarding contractors work whose value exceeded budgetary permits and paying contractors for work that has not been done.
For instance, the CAG has found that the PWD asked the state government to allot Rs1,910 crore between 2010-15 for maintenance and repairs of all its properties. The CAG, however, found that the value of repairs could not have been more than Rs630 crore. Giving in to the demands, the state government allotted Rs1,067 crore. Of this, the Presidency division, which covers the area of Mumbai, asked for the maximum unexplained excess amount, which was Rs1,005 crore.
And exactly why did the PWD need so much money? The CAG found that in the same period, just to repair 15 buildings the Mumbai division incurred up to one to three times the cost it would incur if it were to reconstruct the entire building. The CAG found that it spent Rs52 crore on repairing these buildings while reconstructing all of them would only cost Rs37 crore.
Interestingly, while the department asked for more funds from the government, it also allotted work to private contractors without even having the budget provisioned for it. The CAG found that 11 of the 13 department’s divisions carried out maintenance and repair works worth Rs349 crore despite the fact the budget for the year had been exhausted. The result of this unaccounted spending was that none of these 11 divisions were able to take up any new, even urgent repairs for one year.
The CAG also found how the PWD squandered away taxpayers’ money as a result of pressure from politicians. The audit found that despite the BMC rendering the Majestic MLA hostel in Colaba dangerous and beyond repair, the PWD spent Rs10 crore on repairing it.
The auditor has also expressed suspicions of a possible fraud by the PWD in a maintenance work it allotted to contractors for the paining of 980 homes which serve as railway police staff quarters in Ghatkopar. The CAG found that while some homes were painted twice in less than two years, half the homes surveyed were not painted at all, but the PWD paid the contractor for painting them anyway.
Ripping it apart, the CAG said, “The maintenance and repair works of government buildings were taken up by the department in an ad hoc manner...The internal controls and monitoring mechanism in the department was weak. The funds demanded by the divisions and that released by the department were both unrealistic.”