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Mayor move to salvage loan

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Friday set up a special team in a last-ditch attempt to rescue the mega Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan for the infrastructural development of the city.

The day after Metro reported that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) had complained to the ADB about the “highly unsatisfactory performance” of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the firm appointed by the bank, the mayor formed a special audit team to break the impasse over the loan package. The CMC has even called for PwC to be “blacklisted” for attempting to “hoodwink” both the civic body and the ADB.

The international bank has made it clear to the CMC that it cannot extend the Rs 1,245-crore loan till it furnished the audited accounts from 1993 to 2000. The mayor’s team has been instructed to work overtime and complete the audit for this period.

“It is a pity that the loan has become uncertain now because of the unaudited accounts of the period when the Marxists were running the CMC,” said Mukherjee. “We are making a serious bid for the loan for which this special team has been set up to clear the backlog. Ten million people will suffer if the loan package falls through because of the unaudited accounts, but the Trinamul Congress cannot be blamed for this.”

The special audit team, functioning out of an office in the new New Market complex, comprises the CMC’s own accountants and experts from an external firm.

The government, meanwhile, has asked the CMC to “take all necessary steps for producing up-to-date audited financial accounts”. Municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya, on Friday, said the CMC must furnish the audited statements as the ADB loan was “absolutely necessary” for the development of Calcutta’s infrastructure.

Sections of the ruling CPM brushed off the mayor’s allegations and accused the Trinamul Congress-BJP civic board of “wasting two years in the pursuance of unproductive issues”.

Sudhanshu Sil, former member of the Left Front-run-CMC board, said: “We had undertaken the task of auditing the financial statements for the 12 previous years in 1996. By 1999, we had covered seven years. The present board has hardly made much headway since.”

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