With four months to go before the next civic budget, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has so far managed to use up only 26 per cent of the funds allocated to its various departments this year, despite promises of improved spending.
While the expenditure in the roads and traffic department has been the worst-hit owing to the roads scam, the gardens as well as the storm water drains department have seen minimal increase in expenditure when compared with the same time last year. Of the annual budget estimate of Rs 31,255 crore (excluding allocations for the hydraulic engineering and sewerage operations departments), till November 28, the BMC’s actual expenditure across departments is Rs 8,102 crore. The expenditure is 1.4 per cent lower than last year’s figure recorded on the same day.
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Though the budget for the roads department this year was marginally smaller than last year, the expenditure is significantly lower, due to the ongoing roads scam inquiries. Last year, Rs 3,674 crore was the provision, of which Rs 1,490 crore was spent. This year, the allocation was around Rs 3,477 crore, while the expenditure was a mere Rs 441 crore.
Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta Wednesday told standing committee members that the civic body had withheld payments to the contractors implicated in the roads scam. “We have withheld payments worth more than Rs 900 crore to the 16 tainted contractors and henceforth no new contract will be awarded to them,” he said.
The withheld amount has been calculated as the losses incurred by the BMC owing to the shoddy work of the contractors.
Following bitter criticism over potholes on the city’s roads during the monsoon, Mehta said, the BMC had identified locations where potholes cropped up every year. “The deputy municipal commissioners have identified 455 such locations and we have set aside Rs 64 crore for permanent repairs. The tenders will be placed before the standing committee before the code of conduct is enforced,” he said.
Department-wise data indicated better results in the solid waste management department, with tenders for large projects underway, such as for the closure of Mulund dumping ground and the waste-to-energy project at the Deonar ground. Of the annual allocation of Rs 2,224 crore, the SWM department spent Rs 1,259 crore, with the expenditure 24 per cent higher than last year.
Corporators like Shiv Sena leader Trushna Vishwasrao and Rais Shaikh raised concerns over the garbage collection system in the city.
“The city needs to get rid of open garbage bins and we need to spread awareness to motivate people to not dump garbage out in the open,” said Vishwasrao. In response, Mehta said the SWM department was taking up measures to eliminate collection points in the form of open garbage bins.
Mehta stressed on the importance of improving efficiency of expenditure of the annual budget. “We are trying to shift our focus to modernisation of cleaning, such as using beach cleaning machines across the city,” he said.
The effects of the de-silting scam were visible in the expenditure figures in the storm water drains department. Of the annual provision of Rs 1,411 crore, only Rs 436 crore has been spent, which is a marginal rise of 5.2 per cent from last year. Mehta said work was going on in 90 locations across the city at present.
Referring to the expenditure of the garden department, the civic chief said around Rs 177 crore had been spent of the total allocation of Rs 593 crore. He added that the BMC would soon construct seven swimming pools.
Later, addressing the media, Mehta said no stalls would be allowed to encroach footpaths. “I can’t take out my parents for a walk on the footpaths as they are not pedestrian-friendly. I have asked ward officers to take their parents out on footpaths to see if they are walkable,” he said. Mehta added that land was usually acquired for widening roads. “But, for the first time, in the case of the Hazarimal Somani Marg, we are acquiring land for a footpath.”