MUMBAI: The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has sought BMC’s permission to initiate an investigation against assistant municipal commissioner Mahesh Patil over alleged corrupt practices related to the Malad and Byculla Covid field hospitals contract during the pandemic.
Confirming that it has received the ACB request, the BMC said it has its own prescribed procedure for investigating complaints received under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
“The decision regarding grant of sanction is to be taken within three months from the date of receipt of the complaint. In exceptional cases, an additional period of one month could be taken. The complaint was received on February 3, so the period for taking a decision is till May 2,” the civic body said in a statement. “The BMC has already initiated an inquiry through an AMC [additional municipal commissioner Ashwini Bhide]. After receiving the report, the BMC will take a decision regarding grant of approval to ACB.”
Last month, MNS spokesperson Sandeep Deshpande had submitted complaints to BMC and ACB demanding a probe against Patil. He had produced bank statements and WhatsApp messages purportedly between Patil and Yuva Sena’s Vaibhav Thorat discussing a bribe linked to the hospital contract. He had said an unknown person had left this evidence in his office.
Thorat had said the claims were false, while Patil had denied any wrongdoing or irregularities “All payments made for jumbo Covid centres have been done by following due process of law. These contracts have been verified by the standing committee and sanctioned by the BMC chief. Even the municipal chief auditor has audited them. So the allegations are baseless,” Patil said. “The WhatsApp messages are not mine…I have not done anything wrong and will cooperate with any inquiry…as I have nothing to hide.”
Deshpande said if BMC commissioner I S Chahal doesn’t give permission to the ACB in reasonable time, he would protest outside his office. “We have given all electronic evidence, but the BMC is not the fit agency to probe this as it is related to corruption; hence the ACB must take over. If the BMC doesn’t give permission, we will start a sit in protest,” he threatened.
According to Deshpande, the BMC had awarded a contract to firms associated with Thorat at two Covid field hos-pitals for supplying food to patients, laundry services and supplying sanitizer.
The MNS alleged that Thorat, in connivance with Patil, had cheated the BMC by supplying less than half the material-services mentioned in bills and charged for the entire bill quantities. Deshpande had also released WhatsApp chats allegedly between Thorat and Patil discussing suspicious payments. In a few messages purportedly belonging to Patil, he asks for transfer of money into particular bank accounts by sharing its details, including for purchasing a vehicle.