Mumbai builders say BMC engineers demand bribe, enquiry on

MUMBAI: Municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta has ordered an inquiry after developers complained of large-scale corruption in the building proposal (BP) department.

Builders alleged that these civic officials, especially those posted in the Bandra (west) office, are demanding huge bribes to retrieve their building proposal files or accept online building construction proposals.

Early this year, as part of its ‘ease of business’ initiative, the BMC set up an online building approval system to curb malpractices. Last May, the chief minister inaugurated the new BP manual which was meant to be transparent and corruption-free.

However, builders told the civic chief that junior engineers of the department were arbitrarily rejecting their files on one pretext or the other and demanding bribes.

Most of these allegations came from the western suburbs. Mehta has asked the chief engineer (BP) and vigilance officials to examine pending files to ascertain the facts. The chief engineer has started asking every sub-engineer working in the BP department office at Bandra about files pending with them and the reason for delaying approval. There are five BP offices spread across the city which deal with building proposal files.

Under the new system, the BMC has been using the Auto-DCR software to scrutinize proposal files submitted by architects on behalf of builders. It examines the height, width and length of flats, stairs, lobby, refugee area and open area along with other details and indicates deficiencies.

“There were several complaints that the engineers are not accepting building proposals at local offices and deliberately raising some query.” said a senior civic official.

The official explained that BMC is still scanning many old building files in a digital format to incorporate in the new manual. In case a builder had started construction before the manual was introduced and now wants to amend the building plan now, he needs to approach the BP department asking them trace his original file to make the changes. “In such cases, engineers say that files are not traceable in their record and then demand money. Another allegation is that they demand money to accept building proposal files online” said the officer.

An insider said that they had come across many instances where BP sub-engineers were not accepting files stating they need some clarification. The files were stuck with sub-engineers as they are ground-level officers who first need to clear the file after basic examination.

An engineer said, “We have good online system in place, but there is some problem in execution. We are trying to find out if they are delaying building proposals with some ulterior motive. We also we are trying to ascertain if sub-engineers know how to operate the software.”

A veteran architect said that there is a serious problem with the software BMC is using to accept online proposals; he also alleged that BP engineers delay proposals for bribe. Architect Shirish Sukhatme said, “The software is very complicated, there is no use asking architects to submit their proposal online unless they upgrade the software. BP officials are raising unwanted questions to delay building files for bribes.”

October 2014: Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested three engineers, including an executive engineer from the building proposal department, in Byculla along with a private architect for demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs 15 lakh from a builder. The accused engineers demanded Rs 15 lakhs to hand over the releasing the IOD to builder for his Dadar project.

Credits ET Realty

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