Sixteen contractors cheated the city of Rs 572 crore by cutting corners in construction of over 200 roads, a high-level BMC probe has revealed.
The municipal corporation has now decided to not only stop payments to the guilty contractors, but also recover the money already paid to them. While six of the sixteen contractors already have FIRs registered against them, police cases against the rest will be registered once the probe report is formally submitted to Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta.
Tests on 5 roads catch contractors window dressing, inquiry ordered’. The inquiry was triggered by a letter written by Mayor Snehal Ambekar to Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta revealing how contractors were skipping entire layers while laying roads to maximise profits.
After the tests on five roads, the inquiry ordered was asked to cover 217 suspect roads. The nearly 10-month investigation has now revealed that that the contractors did not adhere to the mandated thickness of layers, compromising the life of the roads. Deviation from prescribed quality in most roads was found to be as high as 35 per cent.
The contractors named in the investigation report are: Ms Shah and Parikh, Ms Speco, Ms Preeti, Ms Supreme, Ms Landmark, Ms Prakash, Ms Vitrag, Ms New India Roadways, Ms Mukesh Brothers, Ms RE Infra. A previous investigation in the same scam had named Ms RPS Infra, Ms KR Construction, Ms Jay Kumar, Ms Relcon Infraprojects, Ms RK Madhani and Ms Mahavir Infrastructure.
The Rs 572 crore figure was arrived at by using a formula to calculate the quantum of loss. The BMC took into account the scope of work, the cost of the road, reduction in its life because of shoddy work, the extent of irregularities and cost of relaying the road.
Top civic officials said that just like the previous report, this report also highlights connivance of municipal employees. “There has been gross negligence on the part of our own engineers and third-party auditors. Contractors have cut corners almost everywhere. Samples were taken from over 200 roads and we have found irregularities in almost all roads barring a few,” an official, who did not wish to be identified, said.
While the inquiry was conducted by Deputy Municipal Commissioner Vasant Prabhu and Chief Engineer (Bridges) SO Kori, it was led by Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh.
The investigating team was shocked to find that many roads did not have a sub-base (a layer that sits under the top layer of the road), while in some others the last layer –mostly rubble – was nearly 85 per cent less thick than the mandated depth.
A civic official, who has not read the entire 1000-page report yet, said if the new report is similar to the first report, 30 more civic employees could land in trouble.
Municipal Commissioner Mehta was scathing in his observations about the repairs scandal after the first report. “All six contractors and even the third-party auditors have completely failed in their duties and are involved in perpetuating irregularities. This could not have taken place without the active and passive involvement of senior officials and officials of all ranks,” he had said.