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ARE NMMC AUDIT REPORTS HINTING AT SATYAM – LIKE SCAMS IN THE MAKING IN NMMC DEPARMENTS? WEEKEND EXCLUSIVE

audit-report1The submission of audit reports to the NMMC Standing Committee is almost an exercise in futility amounting to mockery of municipal accountability and responsibility leading to official protection for alleged corrupt practices and financial losses to the municipal coffers. NMTV News Weekend Exclusive today is a first look at the audit report that exposes just how lightly the NMMC administration is taking the subject of accountability of public funds hinting at the possibility of Satyam like scams in the making in various departments of the civic body. A FIR has been lodged by the NMMC administration against its encroachment contractor M/s Bhise and Co. And the FIR is very serious in nature because it has exposed forgery and loot of the tax payers’ money amounting to the tune of Rs. 26 lakhs. M/s Bhise and the Co. is the NMMC contractor who supplies personnel, vehicles and tools for encroachment removal drives. The shocker is that said contractor without any fear went on to have allegedly forged signatures of junior engineer and ward officer and fraudulently collected bills of Rs. 26 lakhs during the year. Commissioner Vijay Nahata informs that a criminal complaint has been lodged with the police who have informed that the contractor is absconding. The Commissioner says that they are seeing to it that steps are taken to recover the excess amount paid. The corporation has suspended one of its officials in the case. NMMC has scrapped H B Bhise’s contract with immediate effect and has black listed him. Reliable sources from NMMC expose the real reason behind the NMMC administration’s decision to lodge a FIR. The forgery and loot of public taxes by the NMMC contractor M/s Bhise and Co. is one of the calling attention motion of the state’s monsoon session. And it is because of this that the NMMC administration has been forced to bring the erring contractor to book. However Commissioner Vijay Nahata says that the calling attention motion isn’t the reason they have taken action against H B Bhise and co. It is also being alleged that the pre audit work by NMMC CAFO Jaywant Dalvi has also raised doubts because it was his job to verify the chalans for payment to the contractor. And despite the chalan available in his office did not match the record at the ward offices during the pre auditing work, Jaywant Dalvi cleared the payment to the contractor. While the CAFO Jaywant Dalvi refused to speak to us on camera, off it he said that the Asst Municipal Commissioners of Encroachment Dept. are responsible for verifying the ward office record with the chalans. Not his department. On the other hand, NMMC Commissioner Vijay Nahata said that they will investigate the matter and if any official is involved action would be taken against him. Corporator Shivram Patil raised the issue at this week’s Standing Committee meet. Shivram Patil questioned that is NMMC administration only lodging a FIR against Bhise and Co. for the forgery or are they taking any steps to recover the excess payment made to the said contractor. Realizing that the entire issue boils down to NMMC’s audit reports, Chairman Sandeep Naik said that the action taken by the administration was not enough and instructed the Commissioner to speed up audit work. He also asked the administration to submit a history sheet of the said contractor and present an unbiased report on the issue as soon as possible. However if the past record of the administration of presenting reports asked by the Standing Committee is anything to go by, then even this time no report or history sheet will be presented to the members by the administration. More so as it is being alleged that said contractor is a close associate of a NCP corporator in the Standing Committee member M K Madhvi and hence the offender might just be shielded. It is the Bhise forgery scam of NMMC that makes it vital that NMMC take its audit reports seriously. But if the audit reports presented at the NMMC Standing Committee is any indication, then the NMMC administration is definitely not maintaining credible and transparent records to show accountability and judicious utilization of public funds. In the wake of this forgery and lacunae in the NMMC administration and audit department, this report gains huge significance. For this is the audit report of NMMC – the final testimony of accountability and judicious utilization of public funds. However, a first study of the NMMC audit report will shock any tax paying citizen and raise doubts of corrupt practices that are being harbored in NMMC. In this audit report of the Encroachment Dept, submitted by the Chief Auditor Madhavi Ingole for the years 1998 – 99 and 2005 – 06, the auditor states that she sent the audit report for compliance of queries to the NMMC Encroachment Dept. in September 2008. However the dept. failed to comply and the same report was presented to the Standing Committee last week. The said report informs that 4 queries of 1997 – 98 audit report, 3 of 2001 – 2002, 5 of 2002 – 2003, 15 of 2003 – 2004 and 8 of 2004 – 2005 are still pending. Further the audit report mentions that much of the entries and records could not be made available for audit and hence, the audit report is prepared based only on available records. Here are some examples of the records that the Encroachment Dept. has not made available for auditing : * Nearly Rs. 4.59 lakhs remain to be recovered from the 579 permit holding hawkers. * Expenses for anti encroachment drive from 17 June 98 to 20 June 98 is Rs. 72, 268. But there is no record of penalty recovered. * The attendance and leave records of the personnel in the department were not being maintained as per norms. * Only 338 of the 5179 illegal structures have been removed but the dept. spent 100% of the Rs. 1.36 Crores budget in 2005 – 06 for removal of illegal structures. These were examples of how the NMMC administration is not making records available on how they are spending public funds to the auditor. This defeats the very purpose of audit – because if NMMC administrative departments do not make records available then it is a clear indication that there are alleged mal practices in departments. And a proof of this mal practice is the case of forgery by NMMC contractor Bhise and Co. The audit report of NMMC hints at scams like H B Bhise taking place in every dept of NMMC. Eminent city CA E A Patil says that such scams within government offices can be checked if citizens take interest in the functioning of NMMC. Vishwarath Nayar echoes the same. He adds that until now no Chairman has taken the audit report except for the present Chairman of the NMMC Standing Committee – Sandeep Naik. The coming weeks will unfold whether the NMMC will take the H B Bhise forgery and scam case seriously by ensuring that the audit reports of the corporation till date are completed this time round. Looks like H B Bhise forgery scam case is just the tip of the ice berg. For over a decade, there have been no audit of NMMC, time and again officials keep changing and public funds continue to be squandered with no accountability – the mounting audit queries are proof of this. If this continues, the administration and corporators will be responsible for the Satyam like scams in the making in every dept. of NMMC. Zeba Warsia – NMTV News.

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