‘PCMC standing committee must have timebound system to approve tender agreements and work orders to steer clear of corruption allegations’

BJP corporator Seema Savale calls for recording the proceedings of the standing committee and uploading them on the PCMC website for greater transparency.

The PCMC standing committee has found itself amid controversy after its chairman and four civic employees were allegedly caught taking bribes last week. Amidst the demand for dissolution of PCMC and appointment of an administrator, BJP corporator Seema Savale, who during her tenure as standing committee chairperson had thrown open committee meetings for the media and general public for the first time in the history of PCMC, in an interview to Manoj More, calls for recording the proceedings of the standing committee and uploading them on the PCMC website for greater transparency.

How do you react to the charge from NCP, Shiv Sena and civic activists that the standing committee is the most corrupt committee of PCMC?

PCMC is one of the most well managed municipal corporations in the entire state. The opposition just makes vague allegations. PCMC standing committee consists of four members of NCP and one of Shiv Sena besides 11 of BJP. They can surely raise their concerns in the committee meetings if they feel something is done with corrupt intentions.

It is alleged that committee members and even civic officials share commissions taken from civic contractors among themselves…

Allegations can be made but there needs to be some plausible evidence to sustain or prove the allegation. Though there might be some black sheep in the system one can’t generalise the allegations.

Is it true that the chairman gets 60 per cent commission while members get 40 per cent commission?

I feel very sad when allegations are made in such a generalised way.

During your tenure as standing committee chairperson, did you delay the signing of agreement and issue of work orders till the contractors pay up the commission amount?

My team and I made efforts to get the works sanctioned and work orders issued as fast as possible. The decisions I made are available on the PCMC website for public scrutiny. I am happy that we were able to do the best work since the inception of PCMC.

Is it true that bills of contractors are not cleared till they pay commission to officials?

Clearing the bills of the contractors is done only by the administration. Elected members are not involved in the process. There might be discrepancies in the bills or compliance issues that could lead to delays. PCMC is a paymaster organisation and has a reputation of being one of the fastest in bill payments in the state.

During a one-year tenure, how much money do the chairman and committee members pocket through commission?

The standing committee is very responsible. Being a committee that has to take financial decisions, they are bound to face vague allegations as such.

Is there full transparency in the PCMC tender process?

The tender process in PCMC is processed through an online mechanism. Anybody eligible can participate and compete. That is the method mandated by the state and central governments.

It is alleged that certain contractors are favoured by committee members and they are allotted the tenders repeatedly…

Tenders are floated online. Anybody eligible as per government norms can participate in these tenders. The contractor has to compete on values too. The lowest bidder is allotted the tender, There have been a few attempts to alter the terms and conditions for eligibility but we have raised our concerns vociferously to enable healthy competition.

Since committee members are being accused of taking commission, does it affect the quality of civic works as the contractors have to part with their profit?

PCMC has a quality check system in place for all works allotted. Test reports from NABL accredited labs are mandatory. Even third-party audits are conducted in developmental works. There might be some incidences of sub-standard works done by contractors but then they are fined and made to redo the work in case any complaints are received.

What changes did you bring in the committee’s functioning during your tenure ?

During my tenure as chairman of the standing committee, our team tried to make the work more transparent. In the very first meeting, we opened the doors of the standing committee meetings to journalists and the general public. Earlier, there was a practice of taking high-value last-minute proposals but we stopped this bad practice entirely during my tenure. Escalations of tender value were entirely stopped by us. We also made it a point to have all tender files pre-audited and every tender file referred to the vigilance committee for scrutiny before approval of the standing committee. We also started a system of recording reasons and decisions in the minutes of the meeting. We stopped the practice of adjourning proposals without any valid reason. We also started a system of suggesting measures to get the work done to the best of the quality and in the allotted time. These suggestions were made a part of the resolution passed by us. We also stopped the practice of revising the tender amount after the allocation of work orders.

What changes do you suggest to make the standing committee functioning more transparent?

There must be a timebound system to approve and expedite tender agreements and work orders so that the committee does not have to face allegations of corruption. Tender files need to be signed by standing committee members on a first-come-first-serve basis. In case any proposals are to be adjourned there must be a valid reason for the adjournment and that reason must be recorded in the minutes of the meeting. The proceedings of the committee meetings are available on the website of PCMC, I feel that the public at large and journalists must play a more proactive role by monitoring the decisions made by the committees. I also feel that proceedings of the standing committee should be videographed and displayed publicly on the website. This would make people understand the process better and would facilitate the working of the committee to be more transparent.

Do you think ACB’s office should be set up either in PCMC headquarters or in Pimpri-Chinchwad?

PCMC has its own commissionerate now. So it is high time that ACB sets up a fully operational setup in PCMC.

Will the arrest of the panel chairman affect BJP’s chances in upcoming civic polls?

BJP will surely showcase the good works done when they get the chance to govern. Though the opposition might try to create some false perceptions the voters will surely vote as per their wisdom.

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