CAG picks too many holes in Mumbai Monorail story

Mumbai: Was the Mono rail project, which is in the news for its technical glitches, doomed from the word go? The CAG has pointed to a large number of lacunae in the two-phase Chembur-Wadala-Jacob Circle project, including non-transparent selection of consultants and finalisation of the project’s benchmark price, and raised concerns over its structural stability and public safety.

The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) for the year ended March 2014, which was submitted to the state legislature on Friday, has also referred to the improper legal framework, durability issues and non-compliance of quality inspection reports.

Concrete structures lack protection

Though the civil structures were to be designed for a life of 120 years, the audit observed that works like protective coating on concrete structures for guarding against extreme weather and pollution and anti-corrosive treatments were not carried out. The use of lower grade concrete, procurement of escalators without tendering was also observed.

Operator unduly benefited

The CAG said the MMRDA’s decision to grant higher trip rates for the first year of operations was “irregular and rendered an undue financial benefit” to the Larsen and Toubro and Scomi Engineering consortium. “The selection of consultants and benchmark process arrived at for the project was not transparent,” the report noted, adding that liquidated damages were not levied despite the contractor’s failures to achieve a number of key milestones by stipulated dates.

Selection of project management consultant

The audit has also pointed to how the Louis Berger Group Inc was selected as a project management consultant instead of inviting fresh tenders after the SOWIL (India)- led consortium exited the contract. The LBG, which also reassessed the cost estimates of the project, “did not visit the proposed corridor or evaluated (sic) the specific site conditions to determine the cost estimates for the project,” the report said, adding that the cost estimates were prepared in just two weeks “based purely on the basis of assumptions made upon a desk review of the technical proposal of one of the participating bidders…”

On design consultant

In order to revalidate the design, the MMRDA appointed a German consultant in June 2011 for validating the already approved designs of guideway structure. “Incidentally, by the time the consultant was appointed, 25 to 97% of guideway structure under phase I and 11 to 28% under phase II was already completed,” the report noted.

It noted that the project had been notified by the Maharashtra government under the Indian Tramways Act, 1886, though it did not have provisions for construction and use of public transport at elevated level.