The latest flashpoint between the state’s ruling parties, locked in a tug-of-war ahead of civic polls early next year, seems to be the BJP’s attempt to tighten its grip over the Shiv Sena-led BMC by appointing a municipal auditor.
The move is being seen as an attempt to corner the Sena ahead of the polls, at a time when the civic body is embroiled in several scams, including the drains-desilting scam and road repairs scam.
Last week, the state appointed Suresh Bansode, joint director (administration) of Directorate of Local Fund Accounts Audit, as the chief municipal auditor in the BMC. Sources in the civic body confirmed the development and said Bansode is yet to take charge as the matter is sub-judice.
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The Shiv Sena said on Monday that it will oppose the move stiffly. Officials said that an amendment was made to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act 1888 in 2011, which allows the state government to appoint an official of joint-director level on deputation to the BMC as chief municipal auditor.
The state had appointed an auditor in 2012, but but then the matter went to the court, where it is pending. While there is a hearing on the issue on Tuesday, a legal opinion has also been sought by the civic administration, said a senior civic official.
So far, the post was occupied by officials from within the BMC. The chief municipal auditor is an autonomous department of the civic body. The auditor reports to the civic standing committee, which is headed by Sena corporator Yashodar Phanse.
The appointment by the state has irked the Sena. “We will oppose the appointment. Why should a person from outside the BMC be appointed to audit civic departments? The current municipal auditor, who is holding temporary charge, is doing a fine job. We will demand that he be made the department in-charge. A person from the department will know its functioning better than a person from outside the civic body,” said Trushna Vishwasrao, senior Sena corporator and leader of the house in the BMC.
Vishwasrao added that earlier, a deputy municipal commissioner was appointed for gardens and market department, but did not have sound, relevant knowledge. “A similar thing may happen with the new auditor. This is noting but an attempt by the state government to control civic affairs. There is far too much interference from the state in the functioning of the local body,” she said.
BJP has defended its move. “The issue dates back to 2012, when the then state government had appointed the municipal auditor. If it brings transparency in the civic administration, there should be no opposition to it,” said Manoj Kotak, BJP corporator and group leader in BMC.
When asked about the BJP’s opposition to the move in 2012, Kotak refused to comment, saying the matter is sub-judice.