BMC can't allow contractors to hold a gun to its head
Mumbai is a challenging city for managers of public works in that they get hardly a six-month window to fix and maintain all the major infrastructures, thanks to the unforgiving monsoon the region experiences
While the critical anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests and heinous crimes have been rightly dominating the front pages for the last few days, there have been some disturbing developments in the old bugbear of the city the BMC.
Mumbai is a challenging city for managers of public works in that they get hardly a six-month window to fix and maintain all the major infrastructures, thanks to the unforgiving monsoon the region experiences.
Works usually need to begin immediately after authorities declare the end of monsoon in late September/early October. But this year, the monsoon were officially over only by the middle of October, as late showers were witnessed.
But the real problem is the innumerable U-turns in the process to award contracts for road works this year. As a result, work has not even begun, and it is almost December-end. It is a foregone conclusion that repair work will not be completed before the 2020 monsoon.
The main reason behind the delay is dillydallying by the civic body on how much to pay contractors, and how to pay. First, it decided to give contractors 60 per cent of the payment on completion of work, and 40 per cent in staggered payments over a 10-year 'liability period' depending on how the work holds up. Contractors, who probably know the ways of the BMC, in turn decided to inflate their bids by up to 30 per cent and 40 per cent of the ideal cost, thereby throwing the BMC's calculations off by a couple of hundred crore.
Politicians – local corporators in this case – decided to make the most of the situation and slammed the civic body for allowing things to reach this stage. So, officials have now gone back to square one and are 'negotiating' with contractors to try and convince them to lower their bids to palatable figures.
This begging and bargaining with contractors by officials is definitely a new low. Officials need to show contractors who the boss is, while not losing sight of what they themselves are here for – to serve the citizens.
In the long term, they need to draft fool-proof standard operating procedures for awarding public works, but in the short term, their sole focus has to be on getting the city roads repaired in time for the monsoon.
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