The Calcutta Municipal Corporation allegedly spent Rs 441 crore in three years to produce enough hot mix to repair 2,250km of roads, but only 20 per cent of the city’s 1,200km of battered carriageways received a coat.
A random check by the finance and accounts department of the CMC revealed the alleged discrepancy between the amount of taxpayer money spent and the hot mix utilised over three years to repair or relay 240km of roads.
The price of one metric tonne or 1,000kg of hot mix is Rs 4,900, which means nine lakh metric tonne of the material could have been produced with the money sanctioned by the CMC. That would have been enough to give the entire length of roads under the CMC’s care a layer of hot mix almost twice over.
Since hot mix can’t be stored for use later, the inference is that Rs 300 crore worth of the material was never produced at the CMC’s Palmer Bazar and Goragacha plants.
“Yes, a discrepancy in the production and utilisation of hot mix was detected during a sample check. I have directed the chief of the municipal finance and accounts department, Debotosh Dasgupta, to carry out a thorough investigation before entrusting the internal auditor with a special probe,” mayor Sovan Chatterjee told Metro.
A former deputy chief of finance and accounts said the alleged scam was “just the tip of the iceberg”.
“The years in question are 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12. If we scan records for the past 10 years, the misappropriated amount might swell to several hundred crores of rupees,” he said.
Production records of the Palmer Bazar and Goragacha plants mention that nine lakh metric tonne of hot mix — comprising bitumen, sand and stone chips — was produced there between 2009-10 and 2011-12.
A CMC engineer said nine lakh metric tonne was enough to put a 1.5-inch thick top coat on 12,250sq km or 2,250km of road, which is more than the distance from Calcutta to Kashmir.
The central stores department that supplies bitumen, sand and stone chips to the hot mix plants insist there was no irregularity in supply, suggesting that misappropriation, if any, occurred elsewhere.
“The central stores provide the Palmer Bazar and Goragacha plants all the ingredients required to prepare the hot mix. The records show that bitumen, stone chips and sand were supplied for three lakh metric tonne of hot mix in each of the financial years under review. That works out to supplies for nine lakh metric tonne,” a source said.
The records of the roads department for the corresponding period show that 1,200sq km of roads were repaired with three lakh metric tonne of hot mix sourced from the twin plants.
So who is lying? CMC sources said that the central stores department was yet to submit the relevant records to the finance department, which asked for the files three months ago. The roads department and the hot mix plants haven’t come up with corroborative documents either.
A veteran in the civic body’s civil engineering department said that the allegedly misappropriated amount of Rs 300 crore would have sufficed to give all roads under the CMC a top coat that would survive several years rather than just a season of wear and tear.
To the beleaguered Calcutta commuter, that would surely sound like a cruel joke after a bone-rattling monsoon ride on a city road filled with potholes and puddles.