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CAG bares BMC in Special Audit, but blank on Covid expenses during MVA rule

Mumbai : The Accountant General (Audit)-I Maharashtra has pulled up the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation for certain lapses and irregularities in a Special Audit of 76 identified works worth Rs 12,000 crore – though Covid-19 management expenditure could not be audited due to non-cooperation of the civic body.

The audited works, covering nine key BMC departments, were for the period November 28, 2019 – the day when Maha Vikas Aghadi and Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray took oath as Chief Minister till October 31, 2022.

Ordered on October 31, 2022 by the new government headed by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, the audit also included the expenditure on 13 Jumbo Covid Centres, 24 ward offices, five major hospitals, six specialised hospitals, 17 peripheral hospitals, one dental hospital and others.

However, the BMC had questioned the move to audit any acts/works/decisions taken for Covid management/expenditure of Rs 3,538.73 crore, referring to the Epidemic Act, 1897 and Disaster Management Act, 2005, and despite many reminders, didn’t produce records related to the pandemic handling.

On the other aspects, the Audit frowned at awarding 20 works in two departments worth Rs 214.48 crore without inviting tenders, 64 works costing Rs 4755.94 in five departments had no agreements between the contractors and BMC, in 13 works costing Rs 3,355.57 crore in three departments, third party auditors were no appointed for quality control on the contractors.

Owing to these lapses, the BMC would not be able to take any legal action against the contractors who defaulted, showed scant respect for procedures and a weak internal control mechanism, systemic problems, poor planning and careless use of public funds, leading to lack of transparency in such big works.

Owing to several flaws in the systems and huge delays since December 2011, the Development Plan Department Chief Engineer overvalued by Rs 205.15 crore the acquisition of a 32,395 sqm plot of land in Eksar Village, Dahisar for public purposes.

The final award of Rs 349.14 crore was made in February 2020 and the Audit found that owing to the 8-year delay, the cost on this fully encroached plot increased by a whopping 716 percent based on the 2011 evaluation of the BMC, and even this award was higher by Rs 206.16 crore due to various reasons.

Now, the BMC would have to spend another Rs 77.80 crore on removing the encroachments and rehabilitating them, which also could shoot up with passage of time.

The audit has pointed at “undue favour” of Rs 27.14 crore to a contractor in the road over bridges contract on Dr E. Moses Road and Keshavrao Khade Marg, and a massive cost escalation from Rs 4,500 crore to Rs 6,322 crore in building two flyovers and an elevated rotary road on the Goregaon Mulund Link Road (GMLR).

The two ROBs had issues like extra items of work without approval, non-obtaining the technical sanction of the Competent Authority, non-submission of the agreement to BMC in handing over the Right of Way and frequent changes in the designs.

Accordingly, the work was delayed and of the two ROBs work on only one had started which was just 10 per cent completed till October 31, 2022 – against the target of achieving 50 per cent by mid-March 2022.

For the GMLR project, the work on a 4.7 kms long twin-tunnel, two flyovers and an elevated rotary road could have not started as the forest clearance is awaited since the BMC has not complied to conditions for the same though five years have lapsed since the proposal was made.

This has spiked the cost of the entire project from Rs 4,500 crore in Jan. 2019 to Rs 6,322 crore in Aug. 2022, plus the BMC prequalified a contractor for the work without verifying his experience credentials, and the Audit sought to fix the responsibility for the same.

On the structural auditor’s recommendation to reconstruct the Gokhale Bridge in Andheri, the Audit found that the BMC junked it and instead went for certain repairs/strengthening works costing Rs 9.19 crore and that too without issuing tender, and later ended up making an aexcess payment’ of Rs 1.99 crore to the Western Railway.

The BMC appointed an aineligible bidder’ for building the Rs 464.72 crore Influent Pumping Station in Malad, violating tender conditions, said the Audit.

Since October 2016, poor monitoring and delays in getting clearances dogs a Waste-to-Energy Project costing Rs 648 crore, for the project of 3,000 ton per day capacity which was later cut down to 600 tons per day.

The contract was given in August 2022 for Rs 648 crore and so far Rs 49.12 crore has been paid, but the progress of the work till December 2022 is only 10 per cent.

The Audit has also found lapses, shortcomings, delays, irregularities, etc in the IT Department which saw a purported aloss’ of Rs 37.68 crore, the tender-less works worth Rs 54.53 crore given to contractors for road works, of the 56 works examined, with irregularities in 51 works.

As work on hostel building for KEM Hospital was taken up without the Collector’s permission, in the Acworth Municipal Hospital campus, there was a liability of Rs 2.70 crore as penalty, besides violation of tender conditions and Centre’s directives on the redevelopment of the LTMG Sion Hospital.

In September 2019, the BMC awarded irregularly four works to improve the Mithi River within 24 months, but owing to various problems, there is a liability of Rs 19.42 crore on it, said the 146-pager Audit.

Established in 1873, the BMC administers an area of 480 through three divisions, seven zones and 24 Wards, that makes up the country’s commercial capital.

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