Mumbai road repair scam: 10 auditors arrested for false reports
- A couple of months ago, a road repair scam worth thousands of crores was exposed in Mumbai
- Now, 10 auditors have been arrested for giving false reports in the scam
- A municipal inquiry found most of the contracts handed out were for bogus repair work
- Following the inquiry, the MCGM cancelled Rs 1,000 crore worth of contracts
The contractor-politician-bureaucrat nexus operating in the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has been dealt a major blow.
Ten employees of an audit firm have been arrested in connection with a road repair scam unearthed two months ago. The scam allegedly runs into several thousand crore rupees.
The matter came to the fore when Shiv Sena's Snehal Ambekar, the Mayor of Mumbai, wrote to MCGM Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, informing him about the scam and demanding an inquiry into it. Mehta then ordered a probe into Ambekar's allegations.
In a face-saving effort, the civic administration initially claimed that the irregularities were only worth Rs 14 crore. But the Bharatiya Janata Party soon demolished the claim, saying that the scam could have been worth as much as Rs 5,000 crore.
The matter pertains to repair work on 34 roads in Mumbai, for which the civic body had awarded contracts worth Rs 3,500 crore over the last three years. But the BJP claims that more than half of these roadworks were bogus. It also demanded an Anti-Corruption Bureau inquiry into the matter.
Though the MCGM lodged police complaints against suspected contractors and blacklisted them, it insisted that the financial irregularities weren't greater than Rs 14 crore.
First phase of inquiry
In the first phase of the inquiry, some major contractors were found to be involved in the irregularities. Mehta had ordered all the additional municipal commissioners to personally inspect all the roads repaired in last three years.
It was found that most of the work was either shoddily done, or was an eyewash, as the roads didn't even need repairs.
Following the revelation, Mehta cancelled road repair contracts worth more than Rs 1,000 crore.
During the inquiry, it was established that KR Construction, Mahavir Infra, RPS, RK Madan, J Kumar and Relcon were put in the blacklist, along with third party audit companies, namely SGS Consultancy and Indian Register for SRS).
The Azad Maidan police arrested 10 employees of these companies on 16 June, on charges of cheating and forgery. The accused auditors have been identified as Santosh Kadam, Ahipping (Ishfaque Mansoor Ali Sayyed, Milind Kumawat, Rakesh Merwade, Pawankumar Shukla, Premanand Dhanawade, Mangesh Talekar, Dheeraj Phuljhele, Rahul Shinde and Dhairyasheel Patil.
The arrests followed investigations into the FIR lodged by the MCGM on 27 April against six contractors and two third party auditing companies.
According to sources at the Azad Maidan police station, the FIR was lodged on the basis of the findings of the inquiry conducted by the civic authorities.
The investigations team of the MCGM had inspected 24 roads in the city. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) and Mumbai police spokesperson Ashok Dudhe said: "The arrests of the 10 auditors were made after it was revealed that they had given false reports about the quality of work in repairs of various roads in the city. The auditors had certified that all the roads were built as per specifications, and the work was satisfactory. But the claims were shattered in an internal inquiry conducted by the civic authorities. We are further investigating the matter."
After the arrest of these auditors, the blacklisted contractors and some of the senior civic officials in the road works and vigilance departments of MCGM have come under the scanner.
"The process is on to start inquiry into these officials and fix their accountability," sources in the MCGM said.
The authorities have decided to inspect all the roads repaired between 2013 and 2015.
After the preliminary inquiry, when their involvement in the scam was revealed, it was recommended that the then-chief engineer (road works) Ashok Pawar and vigilance officer Uday Murudkar be suspended. Murudkar is already under suspension in connection with a nullah desilting scam.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
More in Catch