In November 2017, an NGO – Arappor Iyakkam – discovered through RTIs that the Greater Chennai Corporation engineers had spent Rs 68 lakh in 2016 in relaying a road that was merely 320 metres long and seven metres wide. Further scrutiny revealed that just within a year, the contract to relay the Devanathan street in Mandaveli was given to three separate contractors. This despite a three year window that is fixed as guarantee for renovation of damaged roads by the original contractor.
With the corporation failing to take up any manner of investigation into the alleged irregularities, Arappor Iyakkam wrote to the Tamil Nadu Local Body Ombudsman in July. And now, based on prima facie evidence, the Ombudsman S Ayyar will be writing to a state based investigative agency to probe the matter further. According to Jayaram Venkatesan, the Convenor of the NGO, the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti corruption (DVAC) is being roped in to handle the case.
"We have consulted you (Arappor Iyakkam), the Corporation and witnesses. We have also obtained statements," the ombudsman said in a letter to the NGO on August 27. "We have now decided to forward the matter to the investigative agency, see the result of their probe, and then take appropriate decision," he added.
TNM contacted DVAC Director Jayanth Murali who said that the agency was yet to receive the communication from the ombudsman. "Once we get the order, we will immediately take up the matter and conduct enquiries with the accused," he assured. "Action will initiated against those found responsible for any irregularities," he added.
The task of re-laying Devanathan Street was first given to a contractor named J Santhanam. It a was completed on May 30, 2016 at the cost of Rs 36,97,776.
But a month later, the road was closed to the public and ‘patch work’ costing Rs 2,00,092 was carried out. The contract for this ‘patch work’ had been given to another company, MPK Enterprises. This is in violation of the three year guarantee period that should be observed by the first contractor, the NGO alleged.
In December, another bill was raised for Rs 26,50,104 by J Santhanam, the original contractor. He cited ‘Metrowater road cut repair’. And so, in a matter of six months, a bill which was 70% of the cost of the road was allegedly raised. And despite all this, the condition of the road, according to activists, remains far from satisfactory.