Rs 12 crore benches scam comes to light in cash-starved NMC..!!!

NMC
NMC

Nagpur: The cash-starved Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) is again in headlines, of course for a dubious reason. Even as the investigations into the multi-crore stationery scam is still going on, another scandal has come to light in the civic body. This time it is Rs 12 crore benches scam, according to media reports.

The reports said that the NMC had installed over 17,500 benches at public places in the city at the cost of about Rs 12 crore. However, this figure is only on paper. In reality, only between 10,000-12,000 benches were installed but the bills for remaining ones were cleared without actual delivery.

An initial probe by the NMC team has found several irregularities. On paper, many of these benches were shown as installed, but on inspection the NMC team found no benches in the marked places. The probe also revealed that benches that were procured by the civic body were not only of poor quality but purchased at inflated prices.

The civic body installs benches in public places such as gardens, religious places, markets etc for citizens to rest. The benches are installed on the recommendations of Corporators. Funds under Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Standing Committee and Weaker Sections Committee were used for this purpose.

Following the reports, the Municipal Commissioner Radhakrishnan B had ordered a probe some two months ago. Consequently, a team under Deputy Municipal Commissioner Nirbhay Jain started the investigation. The team gathered details and information from the Public Works Department from all 10 zones and submitted a report this week.

According to sources, the Standing Committee had approved and made budgetary provisions for the installation of either concrete or iron benches in societies and at public places. Even financial provisions were made available from the Mayor and Deputy Mayor’s offices. The amount was spent under several heads — road repair and construction, ward fund, financially weaker sections, DPC funds among others.

As per the initial probe report, in 2019-20, the NMC had spent over Rs 4.44 crore to procure 6,587 benches, in 2020-21 and 2021-22, the Public Works Department spent over Rs 2.95 crore and Rs 4.51 crore to procure 4,424 benches and 6,551 benches, respectively. The initial probe revealed that certain contractors were allegedly indirectly paid in lump sum after allotment of orders for benches. These irregularities were observed in almost all wards in 10 zones.

The highest number of benches — 3,200 — were installed in Hanuman Nagar Zone, followed by Gandhibagh 3,027, Dharampeth 2,278 and Mangalwari 2,172.

Taking cognizance of the team’s findings, Municipal Commissioner and Administrator Radhakrishnan B has ordered a thorough probe.