Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner M Thennarasan had conducted a surprise inspection to a water pumping station, near Bodakdev ward, in November last year. During the inspection, it was discovered that there was not enough staff present in the pumping station to conduct surveillance checks, as per the specifications of the tender. This raised concerns about the irregularities in the operation and maintenance of water pumping stations in the city.
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) had assigned the operation and maintenance of the city’s water pumping stations and sewage pumping stations to private contractors. These contractors were required to deploy qualified staff, based on the tender specifications and were paid lakhs of rupees every month by the AMC. However, it was found that some contractors were not meeting the specifications of the tender and were not deploying enough staff at the pumping stations. This led to irregularities and financial losses for the AMC.
Following the surprise inspection, the AMC had ordered surveillance of all water pumping stations. The investigation revealed that Aqua Gas Control and Manna Techno Engineering Company, along with some other companies, had fewer staff in the water pumping stations that they operated. A report was prepared for these companies, and a penalty was decided based on an audit of their staff attendance. However, even after six months, the penalty had not been collected from these two contractors. This raised concerns about the effectiveness of the AMC in ensuring compliance with the tender specifications and collecting penalties for violations.
The AMC then handed over the operation and maintenance irregularities of 40 pumping stations to the vigilance investigation. In a meeting of the standing committee held on May 11, 2023, it was approved to extend the operation and maintenance of more than 150 water pumping stations. However, the new tender had not been implemented yet, therefore a request to pay Rs 98.67 lakh per month for the operation and maintenance of more than 150 pumping stations was approved.
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The issue of irregularities in the operation and maintenance of water pumping stations in Ahmedabad is not a new one. In the city, most contractors show political goodwill to receive maintenance work. In such situations, new tenders were issued with specifications that increase the monthly cost of operation and maintenance. If these tenders are approved now, all existing companies will have to incur higher expenses under the new tender, which forces officials, including commissioners, to continue working with old rates.
The AMC had issued a tender for the operation and maintenance of all the water pumping stations in city, but the cost of each pumping station was increasing. Officials expressed disappointment over the tender and stopped it. A new tender was organized to reduce the cost of operation and maintenance, but the cost increased in the new tender, making officials feel helpless. As a result, they have given all contractors an extension for operation and maintenance, as some contractors have not even submitted an application to extend the deadline.
The irregularities caught in the vigilance inquiry may require companies to extend the deadline again. This has created a situation where officials are being intimidated by leaders who have come together to pressurize them. The controversy surrounding the operation and maintenance of water pumping stations in Ahmedabad highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability in the awarding of contracts to private contractors.
The irregularities in the operation and maintenance of water pumping stations in Ahmedabad have raised concerns about the effectiveness of the AMC in ensuring compliance with the tender specifications and collecting penalties for violations. It is crucial for the AMC to address these concerns and ensure that the operation and maintenance of water pumping stations in the city are carried out efficiently and effectively.
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