Mumbai Jombo COVID Probe by ED: Is Iqbal Chahal being punished for legal notice that he sent to CAG?

Is BMC Commissioner Iqbal Chahal being punished for the legal notice that he had sent to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) regarding the audit of expenditure made by the civic body during the Covid-19 pandemic? This is the question doing the rounds in civic circles.

Kalpesh MhamunkarUpdated: Tuesday, January 17, 2023, 12:01 AM IST
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BMC chief Iqbal Singh Chahal | File

Mumbai: Is BMC Commissioner Iqbal Chahal being punished for the legal notice that he had sent to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) regarding the audit of expenditure made by the civic body during the Covid-19 pandemic? This is the question doing the rounds in civic circles.

After one month of the notice, the civic chief, who is now the administrator in the absence of an elected body, was summoned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for the inquiry. On Monday, Mr Chahal visited the ED office and was questioned for four hours.

In the last week of October, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde had ordered the CAG to probe the Rs12,000 crore spending during Covid-19 by the BMC, wherein Rs3,500 crore was on health expenditures alone. According to the CM's communication, the CAG is expected to look into controversial decisions by BMC related to setting up of field hospitals during the pandemic.

Mr Chahal's handling of the Covid crisis had come in for praise from several quarters. However, certain politicians raised questions about the huge expenditure incurred without floating tenders. The CAG had started the audit immediately. Later in the month of December, the legal department of BMC had sent a notice to the CAG saying that it cannot audit or probe the expenditure made during Covid 19 under the Epidemic Act 1897 and Disaster Management Act 2005.

Despite that, the State Government had directed CAG to continue with the audit. The State Government had also forwarded the BMC's notice to the state Law and Judiciary (L&J) Department. Sources said that even though the L&J department's prima facie view is that an audit can be done by the CAG, no action can be initiated against any errant officers. But a detailed report is yet to be received by the State Government.

Arvind Sawant, Shiv Sena MP from South Mumbai while speaking to FPJ said, "There is no lawful government existing in the state. An unconstitutional State Government is taking unconstitutional actions. Even if they don't have rights under any law, they still put pressure on officers. This is the new task the BJP has undertaken. The BJP has no courage to go for BMC election but is pressurising officers.”

“There are other municipal corporations in the Maharashtra state and country which were working during Covid-19, but the inquiry is ordered with regard to the expenditure incurred by the BMC. It is nothing but an effort to malign the image of the Shiv Sena and the Thackeray family. BJP is in power at Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad and Nagpur, why inquiry is being initiated there?” asked Mr Sawant.

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