Contractors tasked with cutting dangerous trees in the G-North (Dadar-Shivaji Park) ward are turning the idiom ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’ on its head. An RTI reply has revealed that the BMC paid a contractor Rs 77.5 lakh in 2016 to cut 565 trees in the G-North area. The BMC says these figures are incorrect.
In 2015, the civic body spent Rs 4.17 lakh on cutting of 104 trees in the same ward, considering which the contractor received Rs 4,009 per tree. The data for other wards shows an average payment of Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 behind each tree. The RTI data has also revealed that the BMC spent Rs 37. 25 crore in total on trimming and cutting the said trees in the last two years.
In other wards
Borivli resident Kevin Coutinho filed the RTI in June, to the chief accountant (CA) of the expenditure department. According to the data provided by the deputy CA department, that release the payments, BMC spent Rs 17.72 crore in 2014-15 and Rs 19.53 crore in 2015-16 for the tree activities.
As for the other wards, BMC spent Rs 84,024 for cutting 72 trees in 2015 in the F-North ward (Matunga, Sion) and Rs 1.74 lakh for cutting of 104 trees in 2016. On an average, Rs 1,167 and Rs 1,669 were spent on one tree in 2015 and 2016 respectively. The same amount was also spent on tree trimming.
Likewise, in the K-West ward (Andheri, Jogeshwari), BMC has paid Rs 25,600 for cutting and clearing 10 trees in 2015 and Rs 38,300 for the same activity on 55 trees in 2016. Thus, the contractor was paid Rs 2,560 and Rs 696 per tree in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
‘BMC hid info’
Coutinho claims BMC tried to hide the information. The RTI was filed to the CA department as they clear all the bills on the basis of work. But the department only provided the total amount spent in the last two years and forwarded the application to all 24 wards for details of bifurcations.
Speaking to mid-day Coutinho said, “They forwarded my application to all wards and a only few wards have responded; only six wards have provided the data. Three wards have told me to visit their office and the remaining 15 have not responded yet. It’s very simple data but the departments are deliberately making me run here and there.”
BMC: Figures incorrect
Superintendent of garden department, Jeetendra Pardesi could not be reached for comment. However, assistant superintendent of the department for G-North Ward Sachin Varise accepted the fact that the RTI reply figures are exorbitant, but clarified that there must be some mistake in calculation.
“The amount written in the reply does not match with the standard limit. It should be around Rs 3,500 per trees. I think there is some mistake in the calculation of figures given in the RTI reply,” he told mid-day.
Later, Varise sent a message claiming that the amount mentioned in the RTI reply is incorrect. According to him, the actual amount paid was Rs 7,89,500 for cutting 565 trees. An average of Rs 1,397 was spent per tree.
‘The exorbitant amounts [paid] are indication of corruption and malpractice. Instead of giving contracts to private agencies, BMC should train their staff and appoint them for the work. It would definitely decrease the expenditure.’
Zoru Bhathena a Mulund resident
‘The amount paid by BMC in G-North ward is extremely high and abnormal. It raises doubt over the officials as other wards have shown a lesser amount.’
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