The BMC courted controversy on Tuesday when it allotted a maintenance contract worth near Rs 12 crore for the penguin enclosure at Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan or Byculla zoo to a tainted contractor.
The civic body cleared the Rs 11.91 crore contract, to operate and maintain the penguin enclosure for the next three years, to M/s Highway Construction – a firm that allegedly cheated the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) two years back.
The Shiv Sena-led BMC had brought seven Humboldt penguins from Seoul, South Korea to the city in July 2016. At the time, the same contractor had been hired to build the penguin enclosure.
However, the municipal body was forced to terminate the contract after questions were raised over the firm’s competence and alleged misdoings. It also forfeited the firm’s Rs 1.5 crore deposit as a penalty, but did not blacklist it from bidding on future projects.
The committee members have now alleged that the panel’s chairman cleared the project without any discussion yesterday, despite having received a higher than estimated bid.
The BMC, which had estimated the cost as Rs. 9.47 crore, received only two bids for the project – both 30 percent higher. It finalized M/s Highway Construction after negotiating the cost down to Rs 11.91 crore, still 21 percent more than its initial estimate.
The expenditure, which comes to just over Rs 1 lakh per day, is being hailed by many as ‘too high’, especially considering the contractor’s past record.
“The BMC is inviting more trouble by appointing a tainted firm a contract worth almost Rs 12 crore. The project was considered too expensive from day one, but political backing ensured that it saw the light of day. Even now, the expenditure seems exaggerated,” an animal rights activist, on the condition of anonymity, told Local Press Co.
“A probe should be ordered to investigate if the firm is connected, or has paid any kickbacks, to any civic officials associated with the project,” he added.
The firm, incidentally, is backed by the same people who are facing a police investigation in the Rs 900 crore road scam.
Related: Byculla zoo’s baby penguin no more
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