Known for its pledging spree while not even sparing heritage buildings it owns, what makes BBMP’s coffers bleed so badly? Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike has conceded to the State Information Commission (SIC) that it has not taken any proactive measures to recover arrears to the tune of Rs 1,286.19 crore accumulated over a period of 18 years (1995 to 2014).
The city corporation has also been accused of skirting information on its audit reports including to various objections raised and compliance action taken up in at least 80 RTI applications, which has been taken up by the SIC for hearing at the moment. “Though a circular submitted to the information commission signed by the BBMP commissioner details compliance reports sought by way of recovery to be made, no such report has been submitted to the information commission till date,” an SIC official told BM.
The revelation about the arrears came when BBMP filed a submission at one of the ongoing hearings in the matter. RTI activists pointed out that if the interest and penalty is accrued for this massive arrears, then the figure could be as high as Rs 4,000 crore.
Interestingly, some of these audit objections reveal that the BBMP has been making excess payment to some of the road contractors in excess of the final estimate fixed at the time of awarding the contract for the civic work. An information commission official also told BM that some of the vital files about some financial transactions have reportedly gone missing, indicating the possibility of foul play.
“In an instance pertaining to a road work, an amount to the tune of Rs 7 crore has been paid in excess of the estimate, which the audit has ordered for recovery. In another work, recovery of Rs 3 crore has been recommended from the contractor concerned.
Interestingly, now some files pertaining to these works and funds released have gone missing. The cause of delay in recovering arrears has no justification in any way as the audit report has already been submitted to government and can’t be modified for the year’s information sought. If it were in the review stage, one could defend the delay. Here it is the non-compliance report that is resulting in the non-recovery of Rs 1,286.19 crore,” the SIC official told BM.
The internal audit wing of the civic body had raised objections over financial transactions of Rs 4,823.64 crore inclusive of both arrears to be recovered and other expenditure incurred from its general funds. It was also recommended that Rs 1,345.95 crore be recovered and the officials filed a compliance report for Rs 350.96 crore, which was earlier objected to by the audit department. It was also furnished that a partial recovery of Rs 59.76 crore out of the total Rs 1,345.95 crore was done without any further information on the pending Rs 1,286.19 crore.
“Objections raised by the audit department over some financial transactions could be rectified later by submitting receipts and details about those specific financial transactions to senior officials of the urban development department. If the final figures tally during this revaluation, the objections raised during the initial audit could be waived off. But arrears cannot be written off. The BBMP has to take initiative to recover them,” said the SIC official. According to BH Veeresh, the complainant in these cases, maximum arrears were recorded against the engineering and town planning sections of the city municipal corporation. The information furnished before the commission has also revealed the inaction of officials concerned ranging from department heads to zonal, additional, joint and assistant commissioner ranked officials. “Because of their inaction, the civic body tries to reject all RTI applications regarding these audit reports details,” Veeresh added.
He also added that the callous attitude of these officials was despite an official circular from the commissioner warning disciplinary action against officials not taking steps to recover arrears. SIC officials pointed out that standard excuses in such situations range from claiming that the officer was not in charge during the time of audit to lack of availability of documents and transfer of official concerned.
Veeresh, who has taken two cases of such inaction to recover arrears with regard to audit reports to lokayukta – one pertaining to assistant revenue officer, Bommanahalli where the arrears stood at Rs 84.91 crore and another pertaining to additional director town planning, filing two complaints said that a complaint would be lodged on the Rs 1,286.19 crore arrears and official inaction to recover it once lokayukta is appointed as a complaint against brass including the mayor, deputy mayor or commissioner can’t be filed before the upa lokayukta considering the jurisdictional aspect.
“An official who fails to act has to be held responsible for the recommended recovery after a period of six months. But as per information provided to the information commission, even that has not happened. Once the compliance report is submitted by BBMP, we will pursue the case with the lokayukta,” Veeresh added.
Out of over 700 different offices from which recovery was made, an information commission official explained that engineering, infrastructure and town planning offices contributed the most.
Credits Bangalore Mirror