It points to a deep-rooted nexus between officials and contractors that has led to crores being spent on works of dubious execution since 2008
If Bangaloreans have been wondering why the IT capital, instead of looking like Singapore or Shanghai, resembles some of the more reposeful corners of Afghanistan or South Sudan, they may find the answers in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) audit of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).
The audit lays bare what taxpayers have always suspected, and more. It points to a deep-rooted nexus between officials and contractors that has led to crores being spent on works of dubious execution since 2008.
From sanctioning large numbers of works without approval to tampering with estimates to benefit contractors; irregularities in tendering process to favour the few; rigging of tenders themselves and circumventing the e-procurement model, the CAG lays bare the unholy nexus behind large-scale financial irregularities.
First ever review
Exposing the darker side in the BBMP, the first ever review of the road and drain works by the CAG, tabled before the State legislature on Friday, reveals the modus operandi of officials in circumventing rules, mainly to benefit the contractor lobby.
Though unrelated, the CAG report comes after the Rs. 1,539-crore fake bills scam unearthed in Malleswaram, Gandhinagar and Rajarajeshwarinagar divisions, now being investigated by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
Suspecting the possibility of payments for non-existent works thanks to deviations from the prescribed control mechanism, the report identified 780 works involving Rs. 222.62 crore that were included in the POW (programme of works) without work codes during 2009-10. “In seven cases, work codes were assigned in blank forms, and in 14 cases, they were assigned even without the assistant controller of finance’s signature,” the report pointed out.
The audit observed that the BBMP does not dig trial pits to study soil and rock characteristics before drawing up estimates of any work, and how estimates were prepared without authenticity of the recorded measurements.
Tip of the dirty iceberg
The performance review of road and drain works by the BBMP was taken up for a period between 2008-2009 and 2010-2011, covering seven divisions in three zones entailing an expenditure of Rs. 642 crore (19 per cent) out of Rs. 3,448 crore. The three zones are Bangalore East, Dasarahalli and Rajarajeshwarinagar.
Suo motu audit
According to D.J. Bhadra, Principal Accountant-General (General and Social Sector Audit), the CAG took up the audit suo motu after making a risk assessment and taking into consideration “public concerns and concerns expressed by the media and NGOs”.