Mumbai civic body rejects allegation of ‘scam’ in setting up of jumbo COVID-19 centres

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Mumbai: 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 (BJP) 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 (first information report) 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 January 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 (NSCI) 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 November 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 November 20, 2010 was an “inadvertent typographical error”, it said.

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