BDA has taken up work on rebuilding the market
If the events of the last few years are any indication, almost every project that the Bangalore Development Authority has undertaken has been mired in controversy and face allegations of misappropriation. Documents secured under RTI Act now indicate that the ongoing Malleswaram market rebuilding project is the latest addition to the list of controversial projects undertaken by the civic agency.
The work order for the project was given to the contractor before the BDA got necessary approvals, the documents show. The work order for Rs. 132 crore project was issued on March 14, 2012. But the Memorandum of Understanding between the BDA and the BBMP, which owns the market, was signed on May 9, 2012.
“It is common sense. How can you authorise somebody to start construction on a property without the permission of the owner of that property? This undue haste in awarding contracts should be investigated further,” said activist B.M. Shivkumar who obtained the documents.
Sources in the BDA confirmed that the Chief Minister will lay the foundation for the project this month and the BDA has started demolishing the old market. But Mr. Shivkumar’s documents show that the BDA still does not have clearances from the Fire and Emergency Services Department, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, Bangalore Electricity Supply Company, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board.
The document trail uncovered by Mr. Shivkumar point to further irregularities.
When the BDA resolved to undertake the renovation of the Malleswaram market during its July 27, 2010 board meeting, the estimated cost of the project was Rs. 76.3 crore for the construction of a five-storey building with a basement. Less than two years later, a private builder was given the contract to construct the same structure at Rs. 132 crore, which is nearly double the original estimate. “According to the rules governing public works, the final cost of the project can exceed the initial estimate by only 10 per cent,” Mr. Shivkumar told journalists during an interaction here on Saturday.
The justification given by the BDA for the escalated cost at the board meeting on January 1, 2012 is that the prices of petrol, crushed granite and other construction material have gone up. It further says that the soil excavated during the construction will have to be disposed of at a site 35 km away and not 10 km away as agreed earlier.
“Does all this justify the doubling of the project cost? By how much have the prices of petrol and other commodities increased?” asked Mr. Shivkumar.
The BDA agreement with the contractor says that the agency will make payments in instalments. Interestingly, the BDA has agreed to treat outstanding instalments as “loan” and will pay interest to the contractor at 14 per cent per annum. “How can outstanding payments be considered as loan? And how did they arrive at an interest rate of 14 per cent per annum? Even bank loans are not that expensive,” Mr. Shivkumar said.
Efforts to contact BDA officials for a response failed.