MMRDA looking for consultant to go through politically-powerful MCA’s account books and see if it violated terms of the lease signed between the two in 2004.
Mumbai: The Maharashtra government authority in charge of Mumbai’s Bandra-Kurla Complex business district plans to audit the powerful Mumbai Cricket Association’s (MCA) books, to determine if it has violated lease conditions for a plot allotted to it.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has issued tenders to appoint an audit firm to look into the accounts of the MCA and Pune-based Shirke Infrastructure. MCA allegedly entered into a commercial contract with Shirke Infrastructure without the MMRDA’s prior permission.
The move comes nearly three years after the MMRDA first served the MCA a notice on the alleged violations. The MCA has been given a three-month ultimatum to take corrective action, or its lease will be cancelled.
The MMRDA’s search for a chartered accountancy firm coincides with a court-appointed Committee of Administrators taking over the reins of the MCA Wednesday. The administrators will run the cricket body until it implements the Supreme Court-mandated Lodha Committee recommendations in their entirety.
The MCA has always had strong political links, with politicians occupying the president’s post for more than four decades. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Ashish Shelar, also chief of the party’s Mumbai unit, was the most recent MCA president until the Committee of Administrators took over.
Before Shelar, who took up the post in January last year, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar was president of the association for almost a decade. Senior Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi and Congress’s S.K. Wankhede, after whom the MCA’s Wankhede Stadium has been named, have also been MCA presidents in the past.
The alleged violations
The MMRDA allotted a 52,157 sq m plot in the Bandra-Kurla Complex in 2004 on an 80-year lease for Rs 2.65 crore. As per the lease agreement, the MCA was to build sporting facilities for the general public and an indoor cricket academy for students from across the state on a portion of the land.
Several activists have, however, alleged that the MCA entered into a commercial contract with Shirke and developed a private club with high admission fees.
Anil Wankhede, the deputy metropolitan commissioner in charge of MMRDA’s land and estate, said: “After sending MCA a notice, the last three years were largely spent in back-and-forth and hearings. But after an internal inquiry, we have concluded that there are violations beyond doubt.
“Since the violations are not directly related to land, but to the use of the premises, we are taking the help of a financial consultant to understand the extent of the financial gain to MCA and Shirke Infrastructure. Based on that, we can decide how to take action on this violation.”
An MMRDA official, who did not wish to be named said though the lease prohibits MCA from making commercial gains from the plot, it has been taking refuge in one of the authority’s earlier decisions — before the signing of the lease — that allowed the MCA to have memberships for visitors.
Activists have also questioned the allotment of the plot without calling for tenders. Wankhede, however, said the probe is currently not examining that aspect, and MMRDA’s land disposal regulation allows the authority to award land to certain organisations and public trusts without calling for tenders.
MCA’s Unmesh Khanvilkar said: “The Committee of Administrators is also conducting an audit of all of MCA’s accounts. We will wait for the findings. Meanwhile, if MMRDA gets in touch for a special audit, the Committee of Administrators will respond appropriately.”
Shirke Infrastructure did not respond to queries from ThePrint until the time of publishing this report.
What the audit will cover
The MMRDA’s financial consultant will scrutinise the MCA’s account books from 5 March 2004 to 31 March 2018. The auditor will have to determine if any third party has commercially exploited the Bandra-Kurla Complex facility, and inspect its books of accounts as well.
The audit will also scrutinise all financial documents and income tax returns of MCA and Shirke Infrastructure from the date of their concession agreement, as well as agreements signed by either of the two entities with various agencies involved in running the facilities at the Bandra-Kurla Complex plot.
All documents or correspondence between MCA and Shirke Infrastructure about associateship fees, user charges, annual maintenance charges, sponsorship or advertisement charges or any other charges will be screened. Besides, the audit firm will procure complete details of the number of associates or donors for the Bandra-Kurla Complex facility and the money recovered by MCA or Shirke Infrastructure from such parties.
Based on the information, the MMRDA wants the financial consultant to provide its opinion on whether the MCA has violated the terms of its main lease deed or supplementary lease deed with the MMRDA.
There are several instances of high value land in Bombay being allotted for non commercial use, virtually free of cost, and then being monetised. Six acres of land was given to the NCPA at Nariman Point for a theatre complex in the early eighties. The Trust found itself short of money, so it sought the government’s permission to put up a residential tower on part of the land, sharing 50% of the unearned income. There have also been allegations, similar to the present case, with regard to the World Trade Centre complex at Cuffe Parade. There has been a long standing practice in Maharashtra for public agencies to award construction contracts to Shirkes without bidding, based on some ” prefab ” technology that they have pioneered.
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