WITH the Rs 2,000-crore roads scam and the Rs 150-crore drains desilting scam coming to the fore, the first half of 2016-17 is emerging as a particularly slow year for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s planned expenditure on various projects. The effect of the slow pace of work in these key departments is clearly causing a dip in overall expenditure of the country’s richest civic body In comparison to other departments, a significant decrease from last year is seen in the roads, bridges and storm water drains departments.
On February 4, Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta announced a budgetary allocation of Rs 3,863 crore for road repairs and for new asphalt and cement-concrete roads. Six months into the financial year, figures recorded till September 30 showed that expenditure on the roads and traffic department had gone down by 79 per cent and the bridges department by around 50 per cent in comparison to data from the first six months of the previous year. Civic officials attributed the drop primarily to the scams that broke out, which led to numerous inquiries.
“The roads and de-silting scams have hit the departments like roads, bridges and storm water drains and the drop in their expenditure has brought the overall expenditure of budget down by 4.8 per cent,” said a senior civic official who did not wish to be named. After the first inquiry report of the roads scam, chief engineer of the roads department, Ashok Pawar, and that of the vigilance department, Uday Murudkar, were arrested and are still in judicial custody. Several contractors were blacklisted for up to seven years while others are facing inquiries.
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“Due to all the arrests and the ongoing inquiries, the officials have become extremely cautious with the tenders, due to which the expenditure of the departments, has gone down,” said the official. Similarly, the expenditure of the storm water drains department indicated a drop of around 4 per cent from last September. Officials from the department pointed out that there had been a poor response from contractors during the tendering process of the major and minor nullahs as a fallout of the de-silting scam.
“Even after several rounds of tendering, the minor nullahs had no takers and the work eventually had to be given to the ward offices. Since the tenders were never fixed, the money was never spent,” said the official. While other departments like Mumbai sewerage disposal projects, slum development, education, health and sewerage operation had a higher expenditure this year in comparison to last year, the highest difference in the expenditures were recorded in the development plan department, which spent more than four times the amount recorded last year. From a mere Rs 30 crore last year, the DP department spent Rs 169 crore this year.