SIT to probe CAG report on BMC’s ₹12,024 crore irregularities | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

SIT to probe CAG report on BMC’s 12,024 crore irregularities

Jun 20, 2023 12:49 AM IST

Maharashtra's Chief Minister has ordered a special investigation team led by Mumbai's police commissioner to probe alleged irregularities worth INR120.24bn ($1.6bn) in nine departments of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The move puts the ruling Shiv Sena under the scanner, with civic polls expected in the next few months and the Sena-BJP alliance aiming to wrest control of the BMC to display strength. The Comptroller and Auditor General had criticised the BMC for mismanagement, lack of transparency and callous handling of funds. The SIT will include the joint commissioner of police, economic offences wing, and senior officials.

MUMBAI: Chief minister Eknath Shinde has called for a special investigation team (SIT) of Mumbai police to probe the alleged irregularities worth 12,024 crore in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) nine departments, observed by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in March. The SIT will be led by Mumbai police commissioner Vivek Phansalkar. The multi-member team will include Nishith Mishra, joint commissioner of police, economic offences wing (EOW), and other senior officials.

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Shinde’s decision, taken at the chief minister’s office (CMO) on Monday, puts the Shiv Sena (UBT) under scanner, with speculations rife that the civic polls are likely in the next few months. The Thackeray-led Shiv Sena ruled BMC for over two decades, and the present Shinde-led Sena-BJP alliance governing the state is aiming to wrest control of it, to display strength.

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Earlier, in its report CAG had had criticised BMC for callous handling of funds, lack of transparency, systemic problem and mismanagement while rewarding contracts related to road, waste management and other projects, between November 28, 2019, and October 31, 2022, following a special request made by the state government. The report pointed out that the tendering process was not followed in most cases, resulting in unfair benefit to contractors.

A statement issued by the CMO stated that the “CAG’s special audit was instituted after BJP MLA Ameet Satam, who represents the Andheri West constituency, had requested the CM to investigate the irregularities by setting up a special inquiry committee”.

“The state government was considering handing over the probe to the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) but later it was decided to constitute a special committee,” said a senior official from the state’s home department.

Among many alleged lapses, the agency observed that two of the civic body’s departments issued 20 work orders worth 214.48 crore without tenders, while work orders worth 4,756 crore were given to 64 contractors, which could not be executed since no agreement was signed with them. In addition, due to the non-appointment of the third-party auditor, BMC could not conduct an audit of 13 orders worth 3,356 crore to check their quality.

The contracts related to Covid-19 could not be probed as the civic body had invoked provisions under the Epidemic Act 1897 and Disaster Management Act 2005 that give protection to authorities from following the mandated rules, because of time constraints.

Shiv Sena (UBT) spokesperson and former MP Arvind Sawant accused the ruling alliance of making attempts to damage their party’s image. “There are allegations against so many municipal corporations -- Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Nagpur, among others. Why is the government is not acting against them,” Sawant said and added, “This is because the ruling combine knows it will not be able to face the elections on its own, realising that people are not with them. Thus, they are out to damage the image of Shiv Sena (UBT).”

On the other hand, welcoming the decision, Satam, said the probe will “bring to the fore the real faces behind the corruption in the BMC”. “This is just tip of the iceberg. What has happened in the civic body in the last 25 years is the biggest scam that this country has ever seen,” claimed Satam.

Interestingly, till 2017, BJP was heading the civic body along with Shiv Sena.

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