Mumbai: Reports of thousands of potholes coming up on Mumbai’s roads has become an annual situation during monsoon for the past several years. Every year, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) spends hundreds of crores on filling up these potholes.
This May, it allocated ₹250 crore for only filling up potholes and over and gave ₹3 crore to each of the 24 administrative wards for pothole work. However, what is the real reason for these potholes which not only add substantially to the monsoon woes of lakhs of its citizens but also endanger their lives. Vehicular traffic is slowed down putting even a snail to shame.
The FPJ spoke to a senior ex-corporator who has an insider view of the racket but did not wish to be identified because of the fear of the contractors’ lobby.
“The potholes you see each monsoon are the direct outcome of massive corruption in the award of road contracts by the MCGM administration. If this corruption did not exist, Mumbai would be a pothole-free metropolis,” he observed and gave a step-by-step account of the huge corruption involved.
Step No.1: Even before the tenders for road works are announced, contractors and corrupt officials of the road department sit together to decide the estimated cost of each road work and finalise the terms and conditions of the tender. At this stage, a token down payment is made.
Step No. 2: All assistant commissioners are asked to send a list of roads in their respective wards which are to be cement concretised or improved with bitumen (dambar). The lists are then compiled and the works are prioritised.
Step No. 3: The tenders are then fine-tuned and various packages of the works are announced. The secrecy of the tenders are only on paper because the contractors know well in advance the details. At this stage about 5% of the contract value is given to pliable engineers.
Step No. 4: Bids are received from approved contractors and are scrutinised. Only if the offers are way below the estimated cost are they not considered. Otherwise, the evaluation is done and the administrative proposal is placed before the standing committee (SC), which is composed of corporators from all major parties. Since at present there are no corporators, the administration itself exercises all the powers of the standing committee which is the most important statutory panel under the MCGM Act. Normally 20% of the value of the contract is given to corrupt members of the SC to be shared with party leaders
Step No. 5: The proposals of the SC are then forwarded to senior officials and if the latter are on the take, then they are given 4% of the contract value.
Step No. 6: Once the work orders are issued then the engineers concerned are rewarded with 4% for their “cooperation.”
Step No. 7: Corrupt officials of the accounts department are given a cut of 1.5% for clearing the bills fast and releasing the cheques.
Step No. 8: If any complaints are received then the complainant is managed with a suitable cut.
“Thus about 35% of the value of the contract is eaten away by corrupt officials and politicians. The contractor keeps at least 20% as his profit margin. Thus the actual money spent is only 45%. How do you expect the contractor to do a good job?” the senior former “nagarsevak” asked.
“It is precisely because of the huge scale of corruption that is involved that large companies like L&T, HCC etc normally avoid taking part in the bids,” he added. If this nexus between the MCGM staff, contractors and politicians is not broken then Mumbai is condemned to have potholes every coming monsoon.