Days after the Maharashtra government led by Uddhav Thackeray cancelled its decision to spend Rs 5.98 crore for appointing a private agency to boost the image of the state’s Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, now Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is being questioned regarding its Rs 2 crore annual expenditure on administering its social media accounts, particularly its 34 Twitter accounts, reports TOI.
Politicians across parties have together asked Maharashtra’s Municipal body to review this avoidable expenditure.
MLAs and corporators from several political parties claimed that no technical analysis was conducted to determine the reach and impact of @mybmc and 33 other Twitter handles, many of which are unverified. Moreover, on February 12th it was reported that 12 out of these 34 accounts remained shut due to some ‘technical glitch’.
The closure was particularly vexing considering the BMC, which is experiencing financial difficulties owing to the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, pays a company close to Rs 2 crore a year to administer its Twitter accounts.
Now, the Maharashtra MLAs and corporators have demanded that a new tender process is expedited and a new agency is established as soon as possible.
BMC appoints company to handle its social media accounts without floating a tender
Notably, in the year 2019, BMC had arbitrarily, without floating a tender, awarded a Rs 5.8-crore contract to S2 Infotech International Ltd to manage the 34 Twitter handles till July 2022. Apart from the main @mybmc account, the 34 accounts include one each for 24 wards in the city and separate accounts for various departments. According to the report, while S2 Infotech was awarded the contract, they subcontracted the work to some other firm. An official said that around 35 staffers, including designers and content creators, were deployed at wards and departments to manage the Twitter handles.
According to TOI, while S2 Infotech International did not respond, the BMC chief said that the use of social media channels to raise awareness about initiatives and services received approval from the standing committee. This, he added, enabled the BMC to have “its own breaking news space and bust fake information in real-time.
However, SP MLA and corporator Rais Shaikh expressed surprise that while Mumbai Police has only one Twitter handle @MumbaiPolice, BMC has 34, which has increased costs and led to confusion.
The Ajit Pawar SM account fiasco
Here it becomes imperative to note that on the 13th of last month, the cash-strapped Maharashtra government had set aside about Rs 6 crores to manage Ajit Pawar’s social media accounts and improve his image.
The approval from the Uddhav Thackeray government to use taxpayers money to boost the image of Ajit Pawar had come at a time when the Maharashtra Treasury is in bad shape in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19 in the state that has ravaged the state’s finances.
However, after severe backlash, Pawar himself issued the instructions to cancel the earlier government order in this regard.