Why no one wants to repair potholes in Mumbai

FIRs against contractors and third-party auditors in the road scam seem to have kept most bidders away

This monsoon, be prepared to be troubled by potholes again. The FIRs against contractors and third-party auditors in the road scam by the BMC, has scared contractors for potholes repairs away.

The contracts for potholes repairs in the monsoon have been given  to the contractors who do pre-monsoon repair works. File pic for representation
The contracts for potholes repairs in the monsoon have been given  to the contractors who do pre-monsoon repair works. File pic for representation

BMC’s pothole repairs contracts for the coming monsoon have found no takers despite inviting bids thrice. The only bidder had quoted a sum 40% above the estimate.

The BMC has now allotted the contracts to those doing pre-monsoon road improvement works.

Every year, Mumbaikars have to brace for monsoons due to bad roads, among other things. Water-filled potholes cause traffic to move slowly and have even caused accidents in the past. While the civic body claims that the number of potholes on city roads has progressively decreased in the past few years, it still doesn’t seem to be enough.

The civic body had also reduced the budget for pothole repairs over the years.

The road scam hit the BMC last year wherein it was found that all the sampled roads had at least 50% irregularities.

The investigations report underlined a ‘complete administrative failure’ and indicted the contractors as well auditors. FIRs were filed against both.

Crackdown scare
This crackdown seems to have deterred contractors from doing business with the BMC. Following the nullah-desilting probe last year, the civic body could not find contractors for desilting minor nullahs. And now, it has been unable to find them for pothole repairs as well.

Apart from the road improvement works and pre-monsoon works, the BMC gives out pothole repair contracts every year. The contractor is supposed to fill all those potholes where roads are not under the defect liability period. The complaints pour in heavily in monsoon and the contractor is supposed to attend to the potholes immediately.

“This year, we invited bids thrice. On one occasion, there was a single bidder who quoted 40% above estimate. On the other two, we did not get a single response. I think it is because of apprehension among contractors,” said a senior civic official.

After re-inviting tenders, the officials from the Roads department consulted municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta in the matter. They decided to give contracts to those who do the pre-monsoon repair works.

“Any way they have a one year contract, and we had put a clause in their contracts stating that if required, they may have to fill potholes. We had put in the clause as a precaution but it will now come in handy. And we will not have to pay them extra either. So we are hoping to manage the situation,” the official said.

But since the contractor will have extra work without extra payment, the quality of those filled potholes might become questionable, an official speculated. Also, the contractor may or may not have expertise in the matter.

Officials are also hopeful that there will be less potholes on roads this year because pre-monsoon work has been done much in advance.

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