The state government has turned down the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) application to probe an alleged misappropriation of crores of rupees from funds sanctioned under a central government scheme by officials of the Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC).
The funds had been sanctioned under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), a scheme to improve quality of urban infrastructure and reduce poverty.
The CBI had written to the state on May 21 saying it needed to investigate some MBMC officials for the misappropriation of more than Rs 41 crore (Rs 29.99 crore from the Centre and Rs 12.42 crore from the state). Deputy secretary Dr Deepak Mhaiskar, replied to the CBI on behalf of chief secretary JP Dange on November 25, turning down the request saying after examining the matter the state did not find it a case fit for CBI investigation.
Rishiraj Singh, joint director of CBI (Zone I, Mumbai) confirmed that the state had denied permission.
Sources from the CBI said the Centre had approved MBMC’s underground drainage system project under the JNNURM. The project cost was pegged at Rs 394 crore but the JNNURM’s Central Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee sanctioned Rs 331.42 crore.
The Centre contributed Rs 115.99 crore (35 % share).
“The MBMC escalated the estimated project cost from Rs 331 crore to Rs 453 crore and sanctioned 10% of the tender value to a bidder as advance, without approval from any authority,” a CBI official said requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The CBI alleged despite the advance payment there has been no progress on the project.
Pravin Salunkhe, deputy inspector general of the CBI’s Anti-Corruption Branch, said it needed permission to investigate the matter because central government funds were involved.
“Investigation would have helped us find out the extent of misappropriation and whether any central government officials were involved,” Salunkhe said.
Dange said he had referred the case to the urban development (UD) department. “The UD discussed it with their boss, the chief minister, and told the CBI since the department was conducting a probe there was no need for another.”
The 79-member MBMC house is governed by the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance. MBMC commissioner Shivmurti Naik denied the allegations. “The project was envisaged in 2005-2006 and an estimate was prepared going by costs at that time,” Naik said.
“However, by the time the Centre passed it in 2008-2009, the costs had risen and we got a tender of Rs 412 crore, which the Centre cleared. We paid a 10% advance to the company because this is the rule in Maharashtra.”
Naik said 14% of the work has been completed and that payments were audited at three levels — first by a consultant, then by a central government auditor and finally the MBMC’s auditor — before payments are made.
Sanjay Pange, the MBMC corporator who had complained to the CBI about the alleged misappropriation in July 2009, said he would continue to pursue the matter.