Mumbai: Same coterie of people kept bagging Aarey toll contracts

Agreements signed for toll collection on the 7.5-km stretch went to companies owned by the same set of people four out of seven times in the past ten years, RTIs have revealed; the agreements, worth more than Rs 40 crore, are also riddled with irregularities

The toll collection plaza in Aarey Milk Colony stopped operations in August last year and the skeletons in the closet have begun tumbling out after its demise.

Dark side of the moon: The Aarey Colony road is notorious for  its craters. File pic
Dark side of the moon: The Aarey Colony road is notorious for its craters. File pic

Fed up with finding the 7.5-km road pothole-ridden despite paying toll twice every day, Kandivli resident Sandeep Ohri filed RTIs with Aarey and the Public Works Department last year. He found that the toll collection contracts — worth over R40 crore even on paper — issued by the former were not only riddled with irregularities, but were bagged by the same coterie of people, who formed different companies, over the past 10 years.

Ohri also alleged that the PWD spent money on repairing the road even when the toll operator was under contractual obligation to conduct the repairs under the build-operate- transfer (BOT) agreement.

Documents in mid-day show the Aarey authorities had added some clauses in handwriting. In some cases, the BOT clause was missing from the agreement and, in others, toll collection started much before the contract came in force legally. In all contracts, Aarey named the companies, but did not name the persons who were authorised to sign on the firms’ behalf. In some cases, the contract did not have the comprehensive address of the companies.

Same faces, different firms
Office addresses given in four contracts establish that two persons, who had their offices in Kohinoor Society and Anis Compound, opposite BMC school in Sakinaka, won four tenders out of seven between August 2004 and August 2013. Two winning companies — Garib Nawaz Corporation (Kohinoor Society, shop no 31) and AA Auctioneers & Contractors Pvt Ltd (Kohinoor Society, Shop No. 19/B) — had a common managing director/proprietor in AH Hasan. Another two, located in Anis Compound in the same area — RT Corporation (shop no 77) and Prime Toll & Recoveries Pvt Ltd (shop no 76) — have Iqbal (agreement has just his first name) as proprietor and managing director.

One of the agreements signed for a period of 36 months — between January 13, 2009 and January 12, 2012 (signed for Kohinoor Enterprises, Kurla Industrial premises, Ghatkopar West) was on plain paper and, hence, would not have withstood legal scrutiny. Some people who stood witness for the agreements merely signed the papers and did not give their personal details.

Ohri told mid-day that the PWD had repaired the road even when the toll contractors were under contractual obligation to do so. “When I asked for this information, Aarey authorities directed me to PWD which, in turn, told me it didn’t have the details.”

According to Ohri, the toll operators collected R31.7 crore in six years between 2007 and 2013 for the 7.5-km road (data for earlier period was not available).

“I am finding it difficult to correlate the contract amount (in the agreement) with this collection data,” Ohri told mid-day.

Aarey contracts

For whom the bell tolls
The toll road was handed over to BMC last August and that’s when the toll plaza was demolished. The BMC will maintain the road, which connects the Western Express Highway with Marol and Powai. The 30-feet-wide road will soon be widened to 40 feet and will be part of the Goregaon-Mulund Link Road, which is supposed to enhance east-west connectivity.

The other side
>> Abul Hassan Khan (of Garib Nawaz Corporation and AA Auctioneers & Contractors Pvt Ltd), told mid-day, “Premises you mention may always have several companies. What is wrong in it? We won contracts through legal means and fulfilled them correctly.”

>> Aarey’s senior official Yateen Sankhe said there was nothing wrong in the tendering process. “A high-power committee under the respective dairy commissioner had cleared the tenders,” he said, adding that the PWD should part with information on repairs it carried out. He found nothing wrong in ‘handwritten’ stuff in the contracts. “It’s all right to correct them. The officials must have missed that particular thing.”

>> Dairy Development Commissioner Y E Kerure said, “I will look into the matter after seeing the papers.”

>> Additional Chief Secretary (PWD) Anand Kulkarni said he would investigate the matter. “Let me understand the issue first, because I have joined the department very recently.”

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