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After an inquiry into an e-tendering scam in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) revealed evidence of the involvement of officials and contractors at the ward level, ward officers, on directions from the civic body’s inquiry committee, have issued showcause notices to 150 contractors, giving them 15 days’ time to reply.
The scam was unearthed in September 2014 after an internal report submitted by the civic body’s Test, Audit and Vigilance Officer (TAVO). Following the report, the system was blocked immediately after particular contractors completed the bidding procedure. Subsequently, the preliminary inquiry revealed that contractors, in collusion with civic engineers using their passwords, opened the bids for a few hours around midnight and closed it immediately instead of keeping it open for a mandatory seven days.
The civic body had then blacklisted 40 contractors and suspended nine engineers for their alleged involvement in the scam, said an official.
The official further said the issue was re-examined after some of the contractors went to court against the civic body’s orders. “Some of them had gone to court which stayed the civic body’s decision of blacklisting, stating it did not follow the due procedure of law. So, then we re-examined it and asked the ward officials to issue showcause notices,” said an official.
The e-tendering system was introduced in 2012 in place of the civil works contractors for the petty works such as minor roads, drains and footpath repairs in wards up to Rs 3 lakh. The move was also aimed at bringing more transparency in the system.
The inquiry committee is headed by Dr Kishor Kshirsagar, deputy municipal commissioner (DMC) along with two DMCs — Anand Wagralkar and Ashok Khaire. “Since all these contractors were given the works at the ward level, the ward officers have been asked to issue showcause notices asking them why they should not be blacklisted,” said a senior official.
The official further said the ward officials would give proper hearing before passing any order of blacklisting the contractors. Most of these cases are from the wards in the western suburbs. “The ward officers are supposed to hear them out and submit a report to the inquiry committee,” said the official, adding that there is no timeline to complete the probe.
“Though the scam is estimated to be of Rs 100 crore, the work orders had been given for works below Rs 10 crore. In all, around 150 contractors have been issued notices,” added the official.
Besides action on contractors, a departmental inquiry is going on against 90 engineers including few executive engineers, said another official.