Trash is cash — Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has invited bids for a waste management project worth Rs 174 crore. But the profile of one of the contenders has raised hackles.
A firm owned by Abu Asim Azmi, MLA and state president of Samajwadi Party, has participated in the bid in collaboration with two companies. The contract is for picking up and transporting garbage to the dumping ground by compactors, mini-compactors and small closed vehicles. The contract is for the period of four years from July 2013 to 2017. The bid has been invited to allot the assignment for the stretches of Bandra (E) to Jogeshwari (E) and west side of Vile Parle to Jogeshwari.
A number of reports on nexus between civic officials, politicians and contractors are in the public domain. The bid by Azmi’s firm has muddled matters for BMC whose officials have raised doubts about a politician’s firm being able to ensure quality of work and have asked whether the civic body would be able to penalise the firm if it does a shoddy job. The civic body, in fact, has even sought legal opinion on the issue. “We replied to the solid waste management (SWM) department that there is no law that bars an MLA from taking part in the bidding process,” said sources from BMC’s legal department, on the condition of anonymity.
While the department estimated Rs 174 crore for the work, a joint venture of MK Enterprises, Global Waste Management Cell Pvt Ltd and Gulf Hotel quoted Rs 168 crore, which is the lowest price. Gulf Hotel belongs to Abu Azmi (MiD DAY has a copy of the joint-venture agreement).
A top civic official said that while a politician’s firm getting a contract is not illegal, it could cause problems in the future. “Who would dare question or take action against an MLA’s firm. Tomorrow if a civic official would initiate steps then the politician could pressurise the corporation or the administration to cut the official down to size. What’s worse, this could lead to opening of floodgates, and all politicians beginning to bid for contracts,” he said.
Despite repeated attempts by MiD DAY, municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte was not available for comment.
MLA salary not enough: Azmi
“Though I am a MLA, I have a right to do business as our salary is not sufficient to meet all expenses. I don’t know about others, but I am doing everything within the framework of the law,” Azmi told MiD DAY. The joint venture has quoted Rs 168 crore against the estimated cost of Rs 174 crore. When asked about the presumptive Rs 6-crore loss, Azmi said, “As per our estimates there would not be any loss.”
Although legally he cannot be debarred from bidding, politicians should maintain certain ethics. They or companies owned by them should not bid for such government projects.
— DM Sukathankar, former municipal commissioner
This is not about Samajwadi Party. No MLA or MP should be allowed to partake in local govt projects as a contractor. This would surely affect civic services in the long term, as no official would able to take action against a firm run by a politician.
— Dilip Lande, MNS leader in BMC
I don’t think there would be a problem if politicians were to participate in BMC work, but they should not use influence to gain favours.
- Nitai Mehta, managing trustee, Praja Foundation
It is a mystery how politicians across the board bag key contracts. Is it that all the expertise is only with politicians in this country, or is it that experts from every field engage in politics or with politicians to bag contracts? Can’t these projects be given to professionals for a change? Citizens should object if the garbage contract goes to the MLA’s firm.”
— Anjali Damania, member, Aam Aadmi Party
This indicates vested interest. Rules should be amended to disallow politicians from participating in BMC contracts.
- James John, coordinator, AGNI