The Delhi high court’s nod to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to audit the books of private telecom companies, which may widen its ambit to cover PPP projects, has led to demands by the BJP for a special audit of cost escalations and fare hikes in the already-delayed Mumbai metro railway project.
Former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya demanded that the CAG audit the books of the Mumbai metro railway, which will run from Versova to Andheri and Ghatkopar and is a PPP project.
“The CAG must conduct a special audit of the Mumbai metro,” said Somaiya, who has written to chief secretary JS Saharia.
He added the project, which is likely to be inaugurated this fiscal, had seen massive cost escalations which will be passed on to consumers as fare hikes. Somaiya said the fares would be hiked after the Lok Sabha polls to contain the political fallout.
The 11.40km project, which was originally pegged at Rs2,356 crore but has shot up to Rs4,321 crore, is being executed by the Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL), a special purpose vehicle set up by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), Reliance Infrastructure and Veolia Transport, France.
In his letter, Somaiya has pointed to delays and “exorbitant cost escalations” and claimed no “satisfactory explanation” has been provided in this regard by either the private company, MMRDA or state.
An MMOPL spokesperson said, “We are open to scrutiny as may be applicable under the relevant laws. The project, as a whole, is monitored by an independent agency appointed by MMRDA.
“The metro project was delayed only due to the inability of MMRDA/Govt of Maharashtra in providing the required 100% unencumbered Right of Way (ROW) and the committed access to the Metro Corridor by September, 2007. As on date also, 100% unencumbered ROW is yet to be provided to MMOPL.
“All these delays in grant of unencumbered ROW, changes in designs coupled with steep increase in each and every economic indices, inflation, interest rates, exchange rates, etc resulted in cost increase. MMRDA, the implementation agency, is fully aware of these aspects,” the spokesperson’s statement added.
Somaiya, however, said, “Mumbai metro is a loot.” He added that he was also planning to meet CAG officials in Delhi.
The MMOPL had demanded that the state government increase the fares between 0 and 3 km to Rs22, for 3-9 km to Rs28 and for 9 km onward to Rs33. But, in September this year, the state government increased it from Rs6 to Rs9 for 0-3km, from Rs8 to Rs11 for 3-8km and from Rs10 to Rs13 for over 8km.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who heads the MMRDA, had earlier spoken about the need for an appellate authority or techno-economic regulator to regulate such infrastructure projects.
MMRDA commissioner UPS Madan welcomed the suggestion for a CAG audit. He said, “Details about the project are never hidden from anyone. It is clear that the price hike has been from Rs2,356 crore to Rs4,321 crore and due to what reasons. If there is demand to go for metro rail project’s CAG audit, why not?”
Alleges scam in school bench procurement
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya has alleged malpractices in a tender floated by the state to procure polymer benches for students in state-run primary schools across Maharashtra.
Somaiya alleged that the tender conditions were redrafted to suit some parties and there were manipulations in the pre-qualification criteria. He also said number of moulding machines, furniture supply, open space and office premises were changed for the benefit of a few parties, at an additional cost of Rs80 crore to the exchequer.