Mumbai Civic Body Rejects Allegation Of 'Scam' In Setting Up Of Jumbo Covid-19 Centres

Allegations are being made of a scam of Rs 100 crore in the contract awarded by the BMC for manpower for the Covid-19 centres.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>(Source: <a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Jan Kopřiva</a> on <a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>)</p></div>
(Source: Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash)

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has said the allegation of a Rs 100 crore scam in setting up of jumbo Covid-19 centres is "baseless", as only Rs 33.13 crore has been spent on providing manpower at two such facilities in the city.

Also, the matter of verification—whether the partnership deed, stamp paper for the contract with a hospital management services company is fake—is concerned with the Registration and Controller of Stamps Department and does not fall under the BMC's purview.

Therefore, it is totally wrong to accuse the municipal administration in this regard, BMC chief Iqbal Singh Chahal said in a statement on Saturday.

On the issue of different dates mentioned on the stamp paper and the last page of the partnership deed, the contractor stated before an inquiry committee of the BMC that this was an "inadvertent typographical error", the statement said.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kirit Somaiya had alleged irregularities in setting up Covid-19 centres by the country's richest civic body, which is currently under an administrator as the five-year term of its elected representatives ended early last year and fresh polls are due.

The former Lok Sabha MP had also filed a complaint at the Azad Maidan police station in south Mumbai, based on which an FIR was registered against Lifeline Hospital Management Services company and some persons for allegedly submitting fake documents to obtain contracts for Covid-19 care centres.

Chahal had on Jan. 16 recorded his statement with the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the alleged irregularities in award of contracts for health facilities during the pandemic, and later said jumbo Covid-19 care centres were set up on the Maharashtra government's orders.

In the statement issued on Saturday, he said, "A sum of Rs 33.13 crore is spent for providing manpower at Dahisar and NSCI Jumbo Covid-19 centres together, so the allegation of Rs 100 crore scam is baseless."

The amount paid by the BMC is only for the salaries of doctors, nurses, technicians and ward boys, and no complaints were received regarding non-receipt of salaries, he said.

"As per directives of the central and the state governments, the BMC has taken elaborate measures to contain spread of the pandemic and to save the lives of lakhs of people from Covid-19 infection from 2020 to 2022. As a part of it, as per directions of state Government, the BMC had to provide manpower to operate and manage various jumbo Covid-19 centres set up by various other government agencies," the statement said.

In this regard, allegations are being made of a scam of Rs 100 crore in the contract awarded by the BMC for supply of manpower for the Covid-19 centres.

"However, the allegations are not correct and are devoid of any merit," Chahal said.

As per the state government's directions, the jumbo Covid-19 centres were set up by various government agencies at Dahisar, NESCO at Goregaon, Bandra Kurla Complex ground, Mulund and the National Sports Complex of India in Worli.

The BMC had awarded contracts to various agencies to supply manpower like doctors, nurses, technicians, ward boys for all these centres, the statement said.

"The COVID-19 centres were set up by the various other government agencies and the BMC has not spent any money on it. The operation part of these jumbo COVID-19 facilities was entrusted by the state government to the BMC and hence, the civic body had appointed manpower through contractual agencies," it said.

On the allegations and complaints pertaining to Lifeline Hospital Management Services, the BMC administration had appointed an inquiry committee comprising a joint municipal commissioner and a deputy municipal commissioner.

From the memorandum of agreement submitted by the said agency, it is found this partnership firm was formed on June 26, 2020. Whereas, the stamp paper used by them showed the contract was purchased on March 20, 2020. However, on the last page of this partnership deed, the date is found as Nov. 20, 2010, the statement said.

An inquiry committee appointed by the BMC summoned the contractor for questioning and to explain the facts against the allegation. The contractor stated before the committee that the stamps was purchased on March 20, 2020 and the date mentioned as Nov. 20, 2010 was an 'inadvertent typographical error', it said.

The committee has given its fact-finding report after due consideration of the available supporting evidence presented in the inquiry proceedings, as well as the legal opinions obtained over the issues as required and the explanation given by the contractor.

Therefore, this report does not reflect personal opinion and hence, it cannot be said the committee has tried to save the contractor, Chahal said.

The BMC itself had appointed an inquiry committee after taking note of the allegations against the said agency. After completing the proceedings under the jurisdiction of the municipal administration, the corporation had written to the Azad Maidan police twice on Aug. 11 and 22 last year, he said in the statement.

The municipal administration had itself informed the police to check whether the documents submitted by the agency were forged or false and a FIR should be lodged in this regard.

"It is on the basis of these letters from the BMC that the police registered the FIR in the case on Aug. 24. Therefore, it is self-evident that the BMC has initiated all administrative proceedings by taking cognisance of the complaints received," the statement said.

It should also be noted at this point that the matter of verification—whether the partnership deed, stamp paper is fake or otherwise—is concerned with the Registration and Controller of Stamps Department and does not fall under the purview of BMC. Therefore, it is totally wrong to accuse the municipal administration in this regard, Chahal said.

The BMC administration will fully cooperate with the investigation process, which is being carried out by the police and other agencies in connection with these complaints and all the necessary documents and evidence will be provided, he said.

The Lifeline Hospital Management Services was appointed by the BMC to supply doctors, nurses, technicians, ward boys and no complaint has been received from the said manpower regarding the grant of salaries.

"This means the municipal administration has carried out its task properly," Chahal said.