Mumbai water meter racket: BMC knew devices were defective, still paid contractors

May 16, 2018, 07:04 IST | Laxman Singh

Civic body learnt about faulty water meter readings six years ago, but went on to install thousands more, for contractors' benefit

The water meters (below) were installed for error-free readings, but nearly a third of them were defective. File Pics
The water meters (below) were installed for error-free readings, but nearly a third of them were defective. File Pics

The meter is still ticking on BMC's Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) racket, and the civic body has yet more negligence to pay for. A week after mid-day highlighted how the project had drained over Rs 200 crore of taxpayers' money, it now turns out that the BMC knew six years ago that the devices were defective, but continued to install them and pay the contractors.

As much as 30 per cent of the water meters were found to give faulty readings, as per a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in 2011-12. By this point, the BMC had already installed 80,000 AMRs from the 1.35 lakh meters purchased.

Water meters

For the contractors
Far from taking action against the contractors, however, the civic body went on to install another 30,000 meters. Only the contractors stood to gain from this - as per the terms of the work contract, they would get their full payment once installation was complete.

With full knowledge of the defective nature of the AMRs, BMC went on to pay the contractors for additional units that were installed, states a detailed scrutiny report by the state-run Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The defect was discovered after examining the database of the Aqua Super Water Billing System (ASWBS). BMC officials analysed data from 68,447 meter readings of 16,986 consumers across nine wards. The analysis showed that 20,570 meters had faulty water readings. This means 30 per cent of the meter readings were wrong.

Officialspeak
A senior civic official from the hydraulic engineering (HE) department said, "AMRs were purchased to give error-free readings, and there was warranty of five years. That 30 per cent of the meter readings were faulty is alarming, the devices were new and costly. Action should have been taken against the contractors then and there.

"Also, ideally the officials concerned should have stopped further installation of these meters, which could have saved public money. But they allowed the contractors to go ahead with the project, causing further loss of funds."

What will surprise citizens further is that the authorities now intend to install the remaining 27,054 meters, despite the fact that many of them may be defective, and all are past their usable life span.

Brought to light
Last week, mid-day had reported on the scam as well as the civic body's decision to recover Rs 205 crore from the contractors. The municipal corporation is also probing the role of 13 civic officials.

Also, last week, the Shiv Sena corporator from Kurla, Kiran Landage, had raised the issue in the civic house, and demanded action against the errant contractors.

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Also read: PAC asks BMC to recover Rs 127 cr from water meter suppliers

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