PCMC scraps tender for Rs 750-cr mechanised road sweeping project after BJP corporator alleges illegalities

A corporator from the ruling BJP, Seema Savale, had alleged illegalities and attempts by top politicians to grab the tender through proxy contractors.
A Mechanised cleaning machine which PCMC planned to deploy on roads.

Calling to redo the proposal due to “technical flaws”, the PCMC chief on Monday cancelled the Rs 750-crore tender process for mechanised road sweeping.

A corporator from the ruling BJP, Seema Savale, had alleged illegalities and attempts by top politicians to grab the tender through proxy contractors.

Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar said, “The tender for mechanised road sweeping has been cancelled. We will redo the proposal and again put it before the civic general body for approval.”

The PCMC chief said, “Before publishing the modified tender, we should have got it ratified by the civic general body, which we did not. When we first placed it at the meeting, we inadvertently put the words, ‘Request for Proposal (RFP)’, which related to giving minute details of the proposal. In the civic general body meetings, policy decisions are given approval. Since we had used the words RFP, it was our duty to get the modified proposal ratified by the general body by providing revised details. This did not happen. This error was committed… it was unintentional.”

Savale, a former chairperson of the civic standing committee, had alleged irregularities in the tender, for which she had first filed a written objection in February. She alleged illegalities, unsuitability of mechanised work on certain roads, “pressure from top politicians and bid to form a cartel”. She also said 1,800 sweepers would lose their jobs if the civic administration went ahead with the project.

During the hearing, conducted by the civic administration, Savale made the allegations again, stating that the tendering process was irregular from the beginning. “For instance, the consultant’s appointment issue was brought before the standing committee as a last-minute or emergency proposal. Similarly, the tender document prepared by the consultant was placed before the standing committee and the civic general body meetings as emergency proposal. It looked as if there was no effort to allow members to debate the proposal. Why was it being pushed through in such a hurry?” Savale asked.

The corporator also alleged that the administration modified the approved tender before publishing it. “In the revised tender, the amount to be annually paid to the contractor went up from Rs 97 crore to Rs 106 crore per month. The validity of the contract came down to seven years from eight. The usual practice in the PCMC is to get post facto permission. This way, the civic general body meeting can be taken for granted because once the work is executed, the general body has no option but to approve the proposal,” she said.

Also alleging that some top politicians were putting pressure on the administration to get the tender approved without even conducting debates, Savale said, “One of the consultants complained to the PCMC administration that an attempt was being made to form a cartel and bag the contract.” Savale also said mechanised sweeping was futile in congested suburbs with smaller roads and massive encroachment. “Close to 1,800 employees will lose their jobs. These employees have worked even during the Covid-19 outbreak,” she said.

The PCMC chief, however, denied “political pressure” on the administration. “My administration is looking into the allegations of cartel formation. We will investigate the matter,” he said.

Hardikar said there was “misinterpretation of law”, and that he had directed his officials that other than exceptional circumstances, proposals should not be brought before civic meetings at the last minute. He added that they would rethink mechanised cleaning on smaller roads so that not many employees lost their job.

Mayor Usha Dhore, also from the ruling BJP, said, “I will have to study the issue and talk to party leaders to find out what went wrong. I will comment only after studying the issue.”

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/pcmc-scraps-tender-for-rs-750-cr-mechanised-road-sweeping-project-after-bjp-corporator-alleges-illegalities-6493439/