The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) departmental inquiry report has indicted 63 civic officials, including one Assistant Municipal Commissioner, in the Rs 100-crore e-tendering scam of 2014. The three-member inquiry panel has submitted its report to the municipal commissioner with recommendations of quantum of punishment that he recently approved.
According to the report, the punishments recommended for officials indicted in the report include, one-time penalty, stoppage of increments of indicted officials ranging from one to five years and recovery from pension in case of retired employees. The officials include, one Assistant Municipal Commissioner, 37 Sub Engineers, 16 Executive Engineers, eight Junior Engineers and one Assistant Engineer for allowing their official ID to be used for benefiting certain contractors to bag several ward-level minor works, including road repair and storm water drain repair, using the e-tendering system. The alleged scam caused losses of about Rs 100 crore to the BMC and more than 150 contractors were blacklisted.
A senior official from panel on condition of anonymity said, “Increment of 22 officials have been stopped for one year, 13 officials for two years, six officials for three years and two officials for five years. Fourteen retired officials will be penalised with deductions from their pension and the punishment of four others is yet to be decided. The amount to be recovered from each retired employees ranges from Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000.”
Stricter action needed to curb irregularities
In the past decade, irregularities or scams have hit almost all the major departments of the BMC. In some of these scams, including sewerage, roads, storm water drain and e- tendering, action has been taken or initiated against the officials and contractors involved. However, while the action may have been a curative measure, the BMC needs a stronger prevention mechanism to nip irregularities in the bud.
He added, “Assistant Municipal Commissioner who was posted in P-North ward (Malad) at the time of the scam will lose increments for two years.”
In 2014, an inquiry conducted by Test, Audit and Vigilance Officer department had found that many civic officials from nine wards had opened tenders for a short window of time to only enable certain favoured contractors instead of keeping bids open for the stipulated bid period. According to the officials, because of this, only a handful of contractors bagged the civic contracts, while others were denied a fair opportunity to bid. After the scam came to light, the civic body had suspended nine officials and blacklisted 40 contractors immediately and a detail inquiry was initiated against the officials and contractors in all e-tendering contracts.
As the inquiry progressed, the number of officials rose to 90 and over 150 contractors were identified. Later, the civic body found 63 officers guilty. In 2014, the Anti-Corruption Bureau had also registered an FIR against 23 civic officials involved in the scam.