Rs 100-crore e-tendering scam: BMC's IT department shielding wrongdoers?

In its report, the civic body’s Test, Audit and Vigilance Officer department has said that the IT department has not given it the information it needs to conduct a thorough probe, raising the question of whether it was trying to help the engineers and contractors involved in the scam

It seems the BMC’s information technology department is shielding its engineers, and the software firm which designed the system used by them, who caused a loss of nearly Rs 100 crore to the civic body by favouring certain contractors in the e-tendering process.

The e-tendering scam had rocked the corporation in August. Representation pic
The e-tendering scam had rocked the corporation in August. Representation pic

The BMC’s Test, Audit and Vigilance Officer (TAVO) department has alleged that it had, in June, asked the IT department for details of the operation of the SAP system during the time the irregularities took place, but it had not received the details till August, preventing it from carrying out a thorough probe into the scam.

mid-day has a copy of TAVO’s inquiry report, in which it has spoken about the IT department’s non-cooperation and said that despite writing a letter and sending an e-mail (on June 17 , 2014), asking for data needed for further inquiry, the IT department never gave it the information.

TAVO submitted its inquiry report to Additional Municipal Commissioner Rajiv Jalota on August 13, 2014. According to the report, the IT department has not shared information about irregularities in bid creation, bid change, bid start date, bid end date, bid approval, bidding date and time, and bid publication. TAVO had also suggested that the IT department submit a detailed report about the bidding process and irregularities to Jalota.

Misusing IDs
In the report, TAVO has also mentioned that many engineers had shared their IDs used for e-tendering, which are meant to be confidential, with colleagues. Out of the nine ward offices where irregularities were noticed, engineers in five ward officers claimed that their user ID was used by their colleagues.

The wards in question were K/East (Andheri East), P/South (Goregaon), R/Central (Borivli), R/South (Kandivli) and T (Mulund). In K/East, an engineer was transferred to P/South, but his ID was used by fellow engineers.

After a complaint filed by advocate and BJP Mumbai secretary Vivekanand Gupta in September, the special Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) court directed the ACB on November 12 to file an FIR against 22 engineers, including ward officer (P/North) Devendra Jain, software firm ABM Knowledgeware Limited which designed and maintained the system used for the e-tendering process and 40 contractors who were blacklisted by the BMC after the scam.

The FIR was registered yesterday. Gupta said, “The BMC has been shielding the engineers and contractors who were behind the scam. They were not taking any action. Now, the court has directed the ACB to file an FIR. The engineers had shared their user IDs, which is also a very serious offence.”

“For example. in R/Central ward, sub-engineer Sagar Gaikwad’s user ID was used by an assistant engineer (maintenance). BMC should have filed an FIR in this case, but they did nothing,” he added.

The Rs 100-crore e-tendering scam had rocked the corporation in August. The engineers’ favoured contractors got the contracts by bidding 5-25 per cent below the cost set for the work, despite other contractors being willing to bid 40-50 per cent below it, causing a loss to the civic body.

As part of the engineer-contractor nexus, BMC engineers allegedly also opened up the electronic bidding system for only a certain time window, post-midnight or early in the morning, to ensure that only their favoured contractors could bid.

After the TAVO report, the BMC had suspended nine engineers and initiated an inquiry against 22 engineers. It had also blacklisted 40 contractors. Now, a second inquiry is being conducted by Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Zone I) Vasant Prabhu.

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