BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta on Wednesday told Hindustan Times that nobody in the administration — junior or senior — will be spared if found guilty in the roads scam. Mehta, who has cracked the whip on officers and contractors indicted in the probe committee’s report into the scam, said he will soon streamline process of issuing tenders to ensure there is no room for manipulation or favouring certain firms. He also said the BMC will scrap the system of appointing third-party auditors for quality checks. Referring to the report’s conclusion that there was “total administrative failure”, Mehta said he will hold heads of departments, not third-party auditors, responsible for the quality of work.
The inquiry into alleged irregularities in contracts worth Rs 352 crore to repair or rebuild 34 roads revealed that contractors carried out substandard work, records were manipulated, and there was little oversight by third-party auditors appointed for quality checks. Following the release of the probe report, Mehta suspended two chief engineers and ordered that a police case be filed against six firms. The process of blacklisting the errant firms is also underway.
“No one will be spared, whether they are guilty of active or passive involvement. Senior and junior officers will face the music,” Mehta told HT on Wednesday.
As the probe report revealed that auditors had not done their jobs properly, Mehta said the system of appointing third-party auditors will be scrapped. “There were so many people involved in the audit that no-one took responsibility to check if the work was actually done or not. There will be no skirting of responsibilities. Heads of department – in this case the chief engineer (roads) – will be responsible for checking the quality and getting roads projects completed,” added Mehta.
Two recent scams, the roads scam and another relating to the de-silting of storm-water drains, have once again highlighted the nexus between civic officials and contractors, which is at the root of many of Mumbai’s problems, from bad roads to flooding during the monsoon. Mehta said the process of awarding contracts for civic projects will soon be overhauled. Currently, there is no standard format for road tenders, which leaves scope for manipulation and favouritism.
After the desilting scam, which revealed the faulty nature of the process of issuing tenders, Mehta appointed a panel to overhaul the process. The panel’s suggestions will be implemented so that no loose ends remain in the procedure, said Mehta.
The panel looked at simplifying registration, security deposits and the dispute-redressing mechanism, and aligning them with central vigilance committee guidelines. To break the monopoly of a handful of contractors who bag most of the BMC’s multi-crore contracts, the committee also looked at limiting the number of contracts that a single firm can be awarded, Mehta added.