Mumbai: BMC road contract amount quadruples in 10 months

In January, the BMC had put up a proposal for reinstatement of trenches in the city at a cost of approximately Rs 71 crore; last month, the Sena-led Standing Committee approved a proposal in which this amount had multiplied four times; Leader of Opposition Devendra Amberkar has written to Additional Commissioner about this anomaly

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has often been accused of being biased towards contractors and not thinking of the losses to the civic body and taxpayers, but it seems to have failed to learn a lesson. This year, there has been an instance of a Rs 71 crore contract for reinstating trenches ballooning to Rs 278.93 crore in a span of 10 months at the behest of contractors.

The digging and filling up of trenches for laying utility cables is a constant feature in the city. Pic for representation
The digging and filling up of trenches for laying utility cables is a constant feature in the city. Pic for representation

Devendra Amberkar, the leader of opposition in the BMC, has written a letter to the Additional Commissioner questioning what he says is the ‘biased approach’ of the administration towards contractors. He has also asked why the BMC did not issue fresh tenders despite the huge increase in the contract amount.

Many agencies, including BMC, carry out trenching work for laying their utility wires etc. These agencies dig up the road and reinstatement work is done by BMC-appointed contractors
Many agencies, including BMC, carry out trenching work for laying their utility wires etc. These agencies dig up the road and reinstatement work is done by BMC-appointed contractors

In January, the BMC had put up a proposal for reinstatement of trenches in the city in seven zones at a cost of approximately Rs 71 crore. Since this amount was 48-52% below the civic body’s estimate, the opposition had protested and even walked out, contending that the quality of the work could suffer.

The proposal was, however, passed by the Standing Committee. In July, another proposal was tabled before the Standing Committee, and the contract amount was increased to about Rs 140 crore as contractors said they had done more work than was approved and they needed more money.

In November the administration and the variation committee, which deals with changes in contracts, increased the amount again after contractors asked for more money again and the Standing Committee approved the proposal. This time the allotted amount for reinstatement of trenches rose to a whopping Rs 278.93 crore.

This contract will expire after December 31 and hence the reinstatement of trenches is expected to be completed soon. This variation proposal was passed in the Standing Committee on November 12, when the opposition parties and the BJP had once again walked out of the meeting on the dengue issue.

Amberkar’s letter has also raised serious questions over why fresh tenders were not floated in the face of such a vast variation in the amount. It also states that when R4 crore was allotted to each of the seven zones for the repair of potholes for this monsoon, the same could have been done with trenches and the BMC could have saved Rs 200 crore.

Amberkar said, “This has been happening only after we had walked out of the Standing Committee and this proves how the BMC is biased towards the contractors and doesn’t want to float fresh tenders.

The ruling parties also have been passing such proposals when they should be questioning the administration, but they are not bothered about the citizens and public money is getting wasted.”

Another contract
The BMC will be awarding a new contract of Rs 350 crore for reinstatement of trenches in the city. The contract is for two years, including the monsoon period, and is divided into seven zones.

The civic body has floated a tender about two weeks ago and each zone will be given Rs 50 crore. Many agencies, including BMC, carry out trenching work for laying their utility wires etc. These agencies dig up the road and reinstatement work is done by BMC-appointed contractors.

The other side
Ashok Pawar, chief engineer (Roads) said, “The reason for variation in amount is unforeseen work as we were not aware in the month of January as to how much digging would take place and how much reinstatement would needed.

Also, this amount is later collected from the company or the BMC department, which digs the roads for laying or repair of utilities and the permissions are given at ward level.” Despite repeated attempts to speak to him, Additional Municipal Commissioner SVR Srinivas was unavailable for comment.

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