IT HAS been eight months since officials in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s enquiries department initiated a probe into the role of 85 civic officials alleged to have been implicated in the Rs 150-crore drain desilting scam.
While chargesheets have to be drafted and served upon each of these 85 officials, the process is progressing at snail’s pace because the BMC has deputed only two officials to examine around two lakh documents.
As per the process, after the chargesheets are submitted, hearings will be conducted for each of the 85 civic officials, after which punitive action will be decided. “We have completed around 60 per cent of the work and all the chargesheets have been drafted. They now have to given a final verification before they can be submitted to the administration and served to the officers found guilty,” said an official.
Subsequently, an internal quasi judicial panel will be set up to conduct hearings allowing each of the officials to justify the charges levied against them. A report will then be submitted to Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta who will then decide on the punitive action to be taken against the officers found guilty, a process that is likely to take more than six months.
Officials in the enquiries department said the probe process has been prolonged due to the staff crunch. “Ideally, we need around 10 people to study the evidence and prepare the chargesheets. Currently, only two officials have been going through six types of documents, including Vehicular Tracking System records and logsheets, which run into more than 1.8 lakh pages. We need more manpower and there are constraints which have delayed the process,” said the official.
A senior civic official pointed out that for an inquiry of this magnitude, a separate cell should have been formed to complete the investigation in an expeditious manner.
Another view is that the enquiries department is faced with apprehensions that the storm water drainage department — already short-staffed — would collapse upon the serving of chargesheets to as many as 85 employees. “With 14 men already suspended, the department will not be able to function which would be a disaster especially during the monsoon season,” the official said.
Vacancies in the enquiries department are a long-standing problem as civic engineers are not keen to make the move internally into this department. Despite a recent recruitment drive for more than 25 vacant positions, only seven were appointed after interviews were conducted last week.