Amid Controversy and allegations of corruption, the Standing Committee on Wednesday ordered a probe into the BMC’s Covid-related expenditure. The BMC has, so far, spent over Rs 1,200 crore on Covid-related purchases and creating health infrastructure from March to December.
The money has come from the civic body’s contingency fund and in part from the revenue allocation made in its 2020 Budget for the health department.
Samajwadi Party MLA and municipal councillor Rais Shaikh on Wednesday demanded that the municipal auditor should investigate Covid expenditure and a separate meeting should be convened to discuss the matter. Standing Committee chairperson Yashwant Jadhav directed the administration to conduct an inquiry.
After six months, when the Standing Committee was convened in October, over 600 proposals related to Covid expenditure were tabled for post facto approval. Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Chahal asked all civic departments to submit proposals for expenditure during the months of lockdown from March.
This, however, did not go down well with committee members. In the last one month, committee members referred back proposals to the administration demanding more details. The opposition BJP alleged that the ruling Shiv Sena is burying “irregularities and scams”.
Corporators also demanded that the BMC should restore their powers to approve tenders related to Covid-19 expenditure. “In the wake of the coronavirus, the standing committee allowed BMC to award contracts without routine tendering process. Now, the standing committee is meeting every week and the BMC should follow tendering process and table proposals before the committee,” said Congress corporator Asif Zakaria.
The Standing Committee is a statutory body that approves and allocates funds required for various projects or works carried out by the civic body. Under the Epidemic Diseases Act, the then municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi empowered certain officers to take financial decisions for the city during the period of the Act being in force.
The BMC is incurring cost to create quarantines, isolation wards, purchasing equipment and medicine. The civic body has faced several allegations over irregularities during the pandemic.
It has been alleged that the BMC gave away contracts for jumbo Covid centres like the Nesco centre to a private builder without inviting tenders and supply of oxygen cylinders to developers.
It has also faced allegations of irregularities in awarding of contracts for food distribution and purchase of medical equipment, including PPE kits, mask and thermometers.
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