The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) issued a statement on Saturday regarding the questioning of its commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal in the ₹100 crore Covid centre scam.
Chahal denied any wrongdoing in the matter after he was called for questioning to the office of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on January 16. Chahal was grilled for hours by the ED officers over the alleged irregularities in the COVID-19 centres set up by the BMC.
The ED had called Chahal to record his statement in the matter.
"A sum of ₹33.13 crore is spent for providing manpower at Dahisar and NSCI Jumbo Covid centres together, so the allegation of ₹100 crore scam is baseless
"The amount paid by BMC is only for the salaries of doctors, nurses, technicians and ward boys, no complaints were received regarding non receipt of salaries
"The findings of the inquiry committee of the BMC, regarding the partnership deed and the contract agreement are based on the legal opinion, available evidences and statements given by the contractor.
"The appropriate legal proceedings regarding the partnership deed and the stamp papers falls under the jurisdiction of the Registration and Controller of Stamps and the Police Department, BMC has already written to the police twice, on basis of the same FIR has been lodged
"As per the directives of the Central and the State Government, BMC has taken elaborate measures to contain spread of the pandemic and to save lives of lakhs of people from Covid virus infection in the year 2020 to 2022. As a part of it, as per directions of state Government, BMC had to provide manpower to operate and manage various jumbo covid centres set up by various other Government agencies.
"In this regard, allegations of a scam of ₹100 Crore, in the contract awarded by BMC, for supply of manpower for the Covid centres are being made. However, it is being clarified by the municipal administration that the allegations are not correct and are devoid of any merit. Hence, factual information is being released by the municipal administration in this regard so as to avoid misconceptions in the mind of citizens."
BMC Denies Any Wrongdoing in Covid Centre Scam
1. As per the directions of the state government, the Jumbo Covid Centres were set up by various government agencies, at Dahisar, NESCO at Goregaon, BKC Ground at Bandra, Mulund and National Sports Complex of India (NSCI) at Worli. BMC had awarded contracts to various agencies to supply manpower like doctors, nurses, technicians, ward boys etc. in the facilities set up for all these Covid centres. Because, the covid centre were set up by the various other government agencies, BMC has not spent any money on it. The operation part of these jumbo covid facilities was entrusted by the state Government to BMC and hence, BMC had appointed manpower through contractual agencies.
2. For the two Covid centres out of these, namely Dahisar and NSCI, BMC had awarded the work of providing manpower like doctors, nurses, technicians, ward boys etc. to M/s. Lifeline Hospital Management Services, by following due process.
3. Before M/s. LifeLine Hospital Management Services were awarded the contract for these two Covid centres, BMC administration had negotiated the rates to much lower rate than quoted by them in their Expression of Interests. BMC has paid a total of Rs 33.13 Crore to the agency, for the supply of manpower they made, which includes - Rs. 3 Crore 36 lakh for NSCI Covid centre and Rs. 29 Crore 77 lakh for the Dahisar Covid Centre. Therefore, the allegations of a scam of Rs. 100 crore in these contracts, is baseless and totally unfounded.
4. Importantly, BMC has paid a bill to this agency, for the supply of essential manpower like doctors, nurses, technicians, ward boys etc. after the completion of the work. During the contract period, none of the doctors, nurses, technicians, ward boys at these covid centres ever made any complaint of the nature that they have not received their salaries. This means that BMC administration has paid only for the manpower supplied and no more.
5. Taking cognizance of the allegations and complaint received, which pertains to M/s Lifeline Hospital Management Services, BMC administration had appointed an inquiry committee comprising of a Joint Municipal Commissioner and a Deputy Municipal Commissioner.
6. From the memorandum of agreement submitted by this said agency, it is found that this partnership firm was formed on 26th June 2020. Whereas, the stamp paper shows that the stamp paper used by them for the contract was purchased on 20 March, 2020. However, on the last page of this partnership deed, the date is found as 20 November, 2010.
7. An inquiry committee appointed by BMC, summoned the contractor for questioning and to explain the facts against the allegation received. The contractor, while presenting his statement before the committee, stated that the stamps was purchased on 20 March, 2020 and the date mentioned as 20 November, 2010 was an inadvertent typographical error.
8. The Inquiry Committee has given its fact-finding report after due consideration of the available supporting evidence presented in the inquiry proceedings, as well as the legal opinions obtained over the issues as required and the explanation given by the contractor. Therefore, this report does not reflect personal opinion and hence, it can not be said that the committee has tried to save the contractor.
9. At this point, BMC administration would like to mention that BMC itself had appointed an inquiry committee after taking note of the allegations received about the said agency. After completing the proceedings under the jurisdiction of the municipal administration, the corporation has written to the Azad Maidan Police, twice, in this regard i.e. on 11 August, 2022 and 22 August, 2022. The municipal administration has itself informed the police to check whether the documents submitted by the agency are forged or false and a FIR should be lodged in this regard. It is on the basis of these letters from BMC that the police have registered a FIR in the case on 24 August, 2022. Therefore, it is self-evident that BMC has initiated all administrative proceedings by taking cognizance of the complaints received.
10. It should also be noted at this point that the matter of verification whether the partnership deed, stamp paper is fake or otherwise, is concerned with the Registration and Controller of Stamps Department and does not fall under the purview of BMC. Therefore, it is totally wrong to accuse the municipal administration in this regard.
11. BMC administration will certainly fully cooperate with investigation process, which is going on by the police and other agencies in connection with these complaints and all the necessary documents and evidence will be provided.
"It is reiterated by BMC administration that, M/s. LifeLine Hospital Management Services was appointed by BMC, to supply the manpower of doctors, nurses, technicians, ward boys and no complaint has been received from the said manpower regarding the grant of salaries. This means that the municipal administration has carried out its task properly," the BMC press release stated.
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