Along with the software developer of the e-tendering system, senior civic officials from nine wards of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have been accused of creating loopholes in the software to award contracts to a few favoured contractors. An inquiry report submitted by the civic body’s Test, Audit and Vigilance Officer (TAVO) last week has named the senior officials for awarding around 49 small-scale contracts to favoured contractors at an estimated cost of Rs 50 crore.
“Only sub-engineers have the passwords to access the site. They open the bids after midnight and keep it open for a few hours to favour a few contractors. They block the website for the rest of the time so that other contractors are unable to access it. The ABM company, which is the software developer, is also involved in the scam,” said Opposition leader Devendra Amberkar. Cost variations below five per cent than the estimated price and above 20 per cent had been found, he added.
As per data, in the R-South ward, a tender was opened at 3.25 am and closed by 9 am on December 11, last year. “A few days later, on December 31, a tender was opened at 3.35 am and closed by 9.12 am the same day in the R-North ward. In K-East, a bid was opened at 12.30 am and closed within six hours,” data revealed.
“These are not the official timings for the civic staff to function, then how can they open the bids after midnight?” Amberkar questioned at the standing committee meeting of the civic body on Wednesday.
“The civic body should have pre-empted such manipulations and seen to it that such loopholes do not exist in the system,” Congress corporator Asif Zakaria said.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Rajiv Jalota had received a complaint on March 10 regarding e-tendering. TAVO was asked to conduct an inquiry and the report was submitted to the municipal commissioner in September. “There have been delays in the processing of the tenders invited using the e-tendering system, which is said to have involved officers from the maintenance departments in various wards. We have now set-up a committee under Deputy Municipal Commissioner Vasant Prabhu to look into the matter and submit a report within a month,” said Jalota.
The e-tendering system was introduced by Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte in 2012 to bring in transparency in the civic works contracts (CWC) used for petty civic works less than Rs 5 lakh. After constant complaints by municipal councillors of fraudulent activities in the system, the civic body switched to 50 per cent e-tendering and 50 per cent manual contracts last year.
The officials from H-East (Santacruz, Vile Parle), K-East (Andheri east), K-West (Andheri west and Oshiwara), R-South (Kandivali), R-North (Dahisar), R-Central (areas like Charkop, Borivali), P-South (Goregaon), P-North (Malad) and T (Mulund) wards are now under the scanner.