‘Let citizens select potholes to be audited’

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‘Let citizens select potholes to be audited’

Following the scam involving filling of potholes and inflation of their sizes last monsoon, the BMC have shortlisted two firms to conduct an audit of potholes filled by contractors last year.

However, with BMC themselves drawing up the list of potholes to be audited, activists and the Opposition have denounced the audit as an eyewash even before it begins. They are demanding, instead, that BMC allows citizens to select the potholes to be audited.

Last year-end, Mumbai Mirror reported on how contractors inflated the sizes of repaired potholes, thereby overcharging BMC by at least Rs 10 crore. Following Mirror's report, Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte ordered an inquiry, asking officials to fix an upper limit on size variation and to conduct a third party audit.

BMC has now selected two agencies, Swiss firm SGS and Indian Register of Shipping, to conduct the audit at a cost of around Rs 10 lakh. But BMC drew up the list themselves and selected only 20% of potholes reported — 6,000 of 30,000 — which will be audited for quality of material used and size inflation.

The move failed to impress the Opposition who have demanded that citizens themselves be allowed to choose the potholes to be scrutinized. "BMC introduced the pothole tracking software to usher in transparency. A third party audit was also planned, but not immediately undertaken.

Now, after the size inflation scam was exposed, if BMC decides on an audit and draws up the list of potholes themselves, it's just an eyewash," said Sandeep Deshpande, MNS group leader in BMC. He added: "BMC should device a mechanism wherein citizens or a neutral panel decide on the potholes to be audited." BMC's Roads Department, until recently, had been avoiding a third party audit and, despite demands, had not appointed auditors since last monsoon.

Alleging a nexus between contractors and civic officials, Colaba Citizens' Corporator Makarand Narvekar claimed there's been a conscious effort to suppress information about the manner in which potholes were filled.

"The audit has already been delayed. There's a major nexus between civic engineers and contractors. If this farce of an audit is done, they will get a clean chit. The audit will be a waste of taxpayers' money. If not citizens, then the auditors must be allowed to choose potholes," Narvekar said.

Some officials also feel that time is insufficient for a thorough job. "The audit will not be up to the mark as the monsoon is not far away and fresh potholes will be created. Even experts from IIT and VJTI refused the job," an official said.

While Chief Engineer (Roads) Dattatray Dixit refused to comment, another senior official said, "We appointed two agencies as against one in 2012. In fact, we want to increase the number of audit agencies to ensure fair reports. We have also chosen the potholes to be audited at random."

Meanwhile, though BMC claims the audit has begun, the auditors themselves said a work order has yet to be issued



Date of Article: 
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Mumbai Mirror