The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is in a fix over recovering Rs 7.15 lakh that it lost after nine corporators failed to turn up for a study tour in the Andaman islands last year. The recovery of this amount is now being discussed between the protocol department, the accounts department, the municipal secretary and the current chairman of the standing committee.
A study tour for members of the previous term’s standing committee was organised between January 28 and February 1, 2016, to study the water supply and distribution system in the Andamans. As many as 22 members were to go on the tour.
Six members informed the BMC on the evening before the tour was scheduled to start that they would not be able to join, BMC officials said. The six included the previous term’s leader of opposition Devendra Ambekar, NCP corporators Dhananjay Pisaal and Sunil Ahir, Congress corporator Bandra Asif Zakaria and BJP corporators Dilip Patel and Vithal Kharatmol. Three other members — Congress corporators Sheetal Mhatre, Pravin Chheda and Bhomsingh Rathod — also skipped the tour, but did not inform the BMC.
The nine corporators skipping the tour led to the loss of Rs 7.15 lakh for the civic body, which had spent the amount on their flight tickets and hotel bookings. “We found out that three members had skipped the tour only after the others boarded the flight. The remaining six did inform us, but only around 7 pm a day prior to the trip. The loss incurred has now been brought to the notice of all departments concerned and we are chalking out ways in which we can recover this,” said a senior BMC official.
The civic body books tickets that are non-refundable and non-transferable as they come at cheaper rates. An official from the protocol department said, “The idea behind this is even if one or two members skip the tour, the loss is not much more than cancelling refundable tickets. However, there is no policy on how and from whom the amount should be recovered if the loss incurred is big. The recovery can be done if the administration or the municipal secretary’s department demands an explanation from the members for skipping the meeting at the last minute. After all, it is the public money.”
The tour was organised when Shiv Sena leader Yashodhar Phanse was the chairman of standing committee. Phanse said, “The tour was planned during the BMC group leaders’ meetings. The bookings were done only after members agreed to visit. I am not aware of why the nine members decided to skip the tour. They must have written to the municipal secretary later.”
Municipal Secretary Prakash Jekate told The Indian Express that there was no policy for recovering the amount from the members. “In the absence of a policy on recovering the loss incurred, the amount is considered waived.”
Some officials have demanded that a policy be chalked out on the lines of the state government regarding who should go on study tours and why, and that a report should be submitted about the tour on their return.