BMC corporators demand enquiry into COVID-19 expenses during lockdown

After failing to get a detailed expense report and tenders approved on COVID-19 related purchases as well as works, the BMC corporators have now demanded an inquiry by the municipal auditor on expenditure and tender passed during the lockdown.

The standing committee chairman Yashwant Jadhav has called for a scrutiny of expense reports during lockdown, when the standing committee meetings were not held.

Rais Shaikh, Samajwadi Party (SP) corporator accused the central purchase department of rampant corruption. Leader of Opposition in the BMC Ravi Raja and other corporators supported the demand too.

"In the standing committee meeting on Wednesday, I have demanded that a full-fledged investigation be carried out on all COVID-19 related expenditures and tenders by the municipal auditor. A sub-committee be formed to investigate the expense reports and tenders that were approved during lockdown. We want a special meeting be called to discuss the issue," said Shaikh, the SP corporator and MLA from Bhiwandi.

During the lockdown, the standing committee was not being held and the members gave the civic administration all the rights to approve and process COVID-19 expenditures then. However, as soon as the standing committee meetings began, members demanded that they would want to go through all the expenses/tenders that were approved, alleging discrepancies in many contracts.

In a heated argument during a committee meeting held in November, corporators barring party lines demanded expense reports of the past months from the administration.

"We have been demanded for expense report, details of tenders approved during lockdown. We are yet to get the reports/details, despite demanded for the same repeatedly. Hence there is a need for a thorough inquiry in the matter at the earliest," said Ravi Raja.

The standing committee meeting is held every week and approval/final nod from the committee is required for every proposal that includes expenses. The meetings resumed four weeks ago amid the pandemic, and the committee hasn't received information on expenditure on materials and medicines for COVID-19 patients, members claimed.

During the lockdown, the central purchase department of the civic body gave contracts without inviting tenders, alleged corporators.

Proposals which came to the committee for approval post issuing of tenders were rejected by the members. The BJP corporators have last month alleged that works worth Rs 10 crore have been done without issuing tenders.

Shaikh said, "Is there something to hide? The administration should have come out openly and tabled the expense report before the standing committee, make the process transparent. No scope for any kind of bungling or scams should be left."

The standing committee chairman said, "Yes, there had been a demand for expense reports be tabled before the committee, which has not been done. Several coporators have demanded for an investigation, however I have called in for security and verification of expense reported and tenders approved for no."

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