Close on the heels of the state-level contractors’ body and a section of mutt heads levelling bribery allegations against the Karnataka government, the association of BBMP contractors said that their bills are cleared only if they give 40% commission to the powers that be.
They have threatened to go on strike if the government does not clear pending bills of Rs 3,500 crore that have piled up from Nov 2019 under the BBMP fund.
The government allegedly owes the contractors another Rs 300 crore under the Chief Minister’s Amrut Nagarothana scheme.
BBMP Contractors Association said they are still in talks with the government about payments. The association has 2,000 contractors executing BBMP works, of which 200-300 have taken up works worth over Rs 10,000 crore. If talks fail, they will go on strike.
Speaking to DH, G M Ravindra, working president of association, said, “Seniority must be maintained when making payments and if payments are still not cleared we will think of going to court.”
After a couple of rounds of discussion, the government has decided to release the payments for November and December 2019 first, followed by payments for the next six months.
“No new tenders have been called for in the last year because of the absence of an elected body. All ward-level works are done from the BBMP fund, and a delay in clearing payments means a delay in completing the work. There have been instances when the contract has been snatched away from one contractor and given to another because the latter agreed to pay a fatter commission. While 40% is the going rate, there have been instances when the tender has gone to the one who has offered more commission,” said another member of the association.
Why didn’t the association approach the Lokayukta or Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB)? “We did register complaints with both these bodies several times, but no action was taken and the issue was nipped in the bud,” added the member.
The members say harassment for fat commissions and pending payments have driven many families to starvation. “There are smaller contractors among us who don’t have money to buy groceries or meet daily expenses. Many have contemplated ending their lives,” he added.
He said the association has appealed to the BBMP to not commission fresh works till it has enough money in its kitty. He added that the creation of job codes has further increased corruption within the department.
A high-ranking official with the BBMP, who didn’t want to be named, told DH, “I don’t deny that there is some truth in what the contractors are alleging. But I am not sure about there being any protocol in corruption like a premium in tenders,” he said.
Explaining why crores of rupees in payments are pending, he said, “BBMP is in the habit of sanctioning works beyond its capacity to recover money. The revenue inflow would not match what is quoted. But this has not happened during our time. I also don’t understand the logic of considering seniority while clearing the bills.”
He said that whosoever has completed the work is eligible to get the payment. There are provisions in the BBMP that allow work to be completed in a fast-forward manner, he said.
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