17,500 benches reek of Rs 11.91 crore scam at Nagpur Municipal Corporation | Nagpur News

NAGPUR: Even before the dust on bogus contracts could settle, another alleged scam rocked the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC). This time it is the Rs 11.91 crore benches scam.
Following proposals from elected officials from all political parties and a single independent corporator, it was decided to install concrete and iron benches for the comfort of the public. Over the last three financial years, the NMC had purchased over 17,500 benches under various heads and spent Rs11.91 crore.
An initial investigation by the NMC team found several irregularities. On paper, many of these benches were shown as installed, but upon inspection, the NMC team found no benches at the marked locations. The investigation also revealed that the benches purchased by the civic body were not only of poor quality, but purchased at inflated prices.
City Commissioner Radhakrishnan B had ordered an investigation about two months ago. Therefore, a team led by Deputy City Commissioner Nirbhay Jain opened the investigation. The team gathered details and information from the 10-zone public works department and submitted a report this week.
Sources said the standing committee had approved and provided budget appropriations for the installation of concrete or iron benches in societies and public places. Even financial provisions were made available by the offices of the mayor and deputy mayors.
The amount was spent under several headings – repair and construction of roads, neighborhood funds, financially weaker sections, DPC funds, among others.
According to the initial survey report, in 2019-20 the NMC spent over Rs4.44 crore to procure 6587 benches, in 2020-21 and 2021-22 the Public Works Department spent over Rs2.95 crore and Rs4.51 crore to acquire 4,424 benches and 6,551 benches respectively.
The initial investigation revealed that some contractors were indirectly paid a lump sum after bench orders were awarded. These irregularities were observed in almost all neighborhoods of 10 zones.
The largest number of benches – 3,200 – were installed in the Hanuman Nagar area, followed by Gandhibagh 3,027, Dharampeth 2,278 and Mangalwari 2,172.
Upon learning of the team’s findings, City Commissioner and Administrator Radhakrishnan B ordered a full investigation. “The NMC will take the help of volunteers from NGOs in the city to count the benches set up across the city. The numbers will be matched with the results of the initial NMC survey,” Radhakrishnan B told TOI.
In December last year, TOI exposed a fake Rs67 lakh stationery scam in the NMC. Following the revelation, huge financial irregularities had emerged. Without providing anything, the contractors linked to the NMC officials had withdrawn crores of rupees.

Melissa C. Keyes