By Jaideep Sarin, Chandigarh, May 6 IANS | 8 months ago

Built for the convenience of residents of this city, public toilets in Chandigarh are now raising a stink of a different kind.

The allotment of tenders for maintenance and advertising of these public toilets is now raising a multi-crore stink, with the city's civic body and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probing the whole affair.

The CBI, after registering a preliminary enquiry recently, is probing the alleged involvement of officers of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation's public health wing in the allotment of these toilets to a private company, Selvel Media Private Limited. The officers have been accused of causing a loss of Rs.17 crore to the exchequer in the allotment of the toilets contract by tweaking allotment conditions to favour the company.

The company was originally allotted the tender for maintenance and advertising of these 86 toilet blocks from 2007 to 2012. The tender was later extended till 2013.

The municipal corporation house, which is led by the Congress, earlier this year allotted the tender to the same company under controversial circumstances even though the corporation's engineering wing had cancelled it a few days back. The company's tender ended March 31.

The toilets, which are strategically located in markets and other public places, generate a lot of advertising revenue annually.
The company that gets the maintenance contract sells the advertising space on the outer walls of these toilets.

Advertising is strictly controlled in Chandigarh by the city's rules. The municipal corporation allowed advertising on the toilet blocks in violation of the provisions allowed by the Chandigarh administration.

Following the controversy, the municipal corporation has got the advertising boards from the toilet blocks removed over the past few days.

"The tender will be allotted again after following proper procedure," a senior municipal corporation official told IANS here.

Sources in the CBI said the probe is being made regarding the allotment and maintenance fee approval of the toilets.

The CBI is looking at the allotment of toilets since 2000 and the fee charged earlier.

"The municipal corporation house was led by the BJP when the tender was allotted in 2007. The names of councillors involved in the allotment at that time should be revealed," Congress councillors Subhash Chawla, Pradeep Chhabra and others demanded recently.

"It is a shame that there was corruption even in the allotment of maintenance of toilets. With this scam, the maintenance of the toilets will be affected and the public will suffer. The concerned officers should be punished," Gaurav Walia, a trader, told IANS.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

(Posted on 06-05-2014)

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