Over three and a half years, from April 1, 2014, to October 1, 2017, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC’s) gardens department spent Rs 1,022 crore on the development and maintenance of Mumbai’s public open spaces for recreational use.

This is more than three times the amount it spent on the city’s public health infrastructure (Rs 299 crore), 22% more than the money spent on building and repairing bridges (Rs 796 crore) and 23% more than spending on public education (Rs 784 crore) over the same period, according to an analysis of data from our MumbaiSpend database, which makes public municipal spending.

Source: MumbaiSpend database. Figures for April 1, 2014, to Oct 1, 2017

After the roads, stormwater drains and solid waste management departments--the departments that account for 50% of all funds spent over the last 42 months--the gardens department is the fifth-largest spender of Mumbai’s public money.

Most of the department’s spending, or over 75%, has been allocated to the development and maintenance of parks and playgrounds around Mumbai.

Between April 1, 2014, and October 1, 2017, over 60% of the work orders issued were related to the maintenance of parks and gardens around Mumbai, particularly in the eastern suburbs. About 17% were related to development of new parks and playgrounds in the eastern and western suburbs. The department is also in charge of pruning trees and managing afforestation in the city.

Despite the BMC’s expenditure on parks and gardens, Mumbai has among the least open space per capita globally--less than 1 sq m per person, compared to New York’s 7.2 sq m, London’s 4.84 sq m or Delhi’s 15 sq m--as IndiaSpend reported in December 2014.

The BMC has also failed to fix quality benchmarks for its garden contractors.

More than two years after the BMC first introduced the ISO 9001 certification plan (a quality management system that requires contractors to train and upgrade the human resources, physical equipment and services), so far no more than four gardens of the 85 shortlisted for the pilot project have met the standards set, said a report from the Observer Research Foundation, a think tank, quoted in Midday, on October 10, 2017.

As of October 1, 2017, one company, Kinjal Construction Company, was the highest-earning vendor of the gardens department, with over Rs 60 crore in 42 months. The company earned about Rs 25 crore for works related to the maintenance and further development of the 20-acre Priyadarshini Park, a popular public open space established over 30 years ago in the upscale southern neighbourhood of Malabar Hill. No details are available on civic work orders worth over Rs 27 crore issued to the company.

Source: MumbaiSpend database, Figures for April 1, 2014, to Oct 1, 2017

Since May 2012, Kinjal Construction Company, which is also employed by the public health, stormwater drains, and other departments of the BMC, has cumulatively earned Rs 226 crore for civic works.

(Saldanha is an assistant editor with IndiaSpend and FactChecker.)