As soon as the monthly Council Meeting started at 11.30am on January 28, 2014, councillors from opposition party demanded to know why the BBMP annual report and CAG reports were not tabled in the council Padmanabha Reddy said that when the current Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was finance minister, he did away with 2% surcharge of stamp duty, which would have fetched some income to BBMP now if existed. Councillors of Congress party, outraged by this, protested vehemently by getting into the well of the council. The meeting was adjourned.
Padmanabha Reddy later clarified that he did not have any disrespect towards the chief minister, but had merely stated the facts dating back to the days when he was the state finance minister. The decisions taken by him have indirectly added to the economic crisis in Palike, he said, adding that entertainment tax, road tax, transport cess etc are given to the state government, not to the BBMP.
In his reply, Commissioner Lakshminarayan said that annual reports of 2006-07 have been presented in the Council. Reports for 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 were ready and will be presented in the Council soon. Some of the years, reports were not presented as the Council did not exist between 2007 and 2009. Reports for 2011-12 and 2012-13 are getting ready.
The Commissioner said that the Audit report was not under BBMP’s control. It will be discussed in the Accounts Committee and then will be presented in the Council. Audit reports for 2009-10 and 2010-11 were ready and will be presented in the council, while Audit report for 2011-12 is ongoing.
BBMP to waste 48 lakhs on sending MoMs
Yediyur (ward 167) Corporator N R Ramesh who spoke next, presented a statistical study on the wastage of paper, cartridge etc that will cost annually 48 lakhs to BBMP, by sending the Standing Committee minutes of the meetings to the councillors, as decided in the last Council Meet. He suggested that as all the corporators have email ids created by BBMP, it is easier to send the reports or minutes of the meetings to the individual email ids, instead of printing and wasting paper and resources.
N R Ramesh had presented a list of more than 2000 properties which according to him had a potential of higher property tax. The list included many famous builders working on building housing and commercial spaces in the city. N R Ramesh demanded that the action taken on such property owners be explained by the the Joint Commissioners of all eight zones. There was no ready explanation given in the council however.
Council Secretary in his reply to the question raised by N R Ramesh, said that all standing committee reports have been sent to all councillors as per the decision taken in the last meet. At this point, Chandrashekhar cited a High Court order and a government order which state the Ward Committees should be provided the minutes of Standing Committee meetings. He said the hard copies of proceedings have to be provided, as all cannot read emails.
Corporators Udayashankar (ward 144- Siddapura), Thimmananjaiah (ward 41 – Peenay Industrial Area) and some other corporators supported this by saying that they cannot read emails. Finally the proposal to send emails to all did not get accepted.
Town Planning division under fire
Basavanagudi (ward ) Chandrashekhar asked as to why the Commissioner is silent on the Town Planning department officials who indulge in corruption. He also asked why 42 engineers are put in Town Planning division, when they do little work, and questioned the logic behind having another joint director’s post. It was shared that there were no officials present when Lokayukta visited Town Planning division.
Harish, Corporator of Nagapura (ward 67) alleged that a town planning engineer had sanctioned a plan that showed the 10 metre-road as 35 metres. He added that many town planning engineers don’t have the required degree in architecture to work as town planners. He sought to know the action taken by the Commissioner.
He reassured his commitment towards providing clean administration and claimed to have taken immediate action on erring officials by suspending and reprimanding. He said he has provided the additional responsibility of Solid Waste Management to Town Planning engineers, who will have to work on SWM half day.
Chandrashekhar responded to this by saying that the Town Planning engineers entrusted with SWM responsibility just don’t turn up at the assigned offices. The Commissioner pacified him by saying that he will take strict action if such officials don’t report to zonal office.
Vishweshwarapuram (ward 143) Corporator Anil said that the current Town Planning engineers should be placed in the divisions that have shortage, such as Storm Water Drain, Solid Waste Management etc, and hire fresh town planning engineers with architecture degree.
Nim oota namge beDa!
Councillor from Kaverinagar (ward 103) Prakash drew the attention of the council to a report published by a newspaper. The report said the BBMP had invited tenders to provide breakfast, lunch and snacks for corporators during council meetings, which “reads like an ostentatious wedding banquet,” with its “16 different combinations of non-vegetarian spreads, including Hyderabadi biryani and Chinese dishes, and 14 combinations of vegetarian spreads.” (Citizen Matters hasn’t been able to check the authenticity of this report. The tender isn’t available online in the tenders section of BBMP website.)
Prakash demanded an explanation from the Mayor and the Commissioner on the tender, as the report held corporators responsible for this. He flayed the media for holding corporators responsible for the same. Many other corporators including Padmanabha Reddy supported him. Some of them even went to the extent of saying they will bring their own food or make arrangements, and they don’t want food to be arranged by BBMP. Sampath Raj, DJ Halli Corporator, showcased his lunchbox at the session to display austerity.
Council secretary clarified that every year such a tender is called, and every item quoted won’t be ordered, but only one combo is ordered. Mayor B S Satyanarayana added that the idea was to ask for quotes on every combo and choose among them, and not ordering everything as interpreted in the report. Not satisfied with this, some corporators said they would not take food from the council. Later when the meeting was adjourned for the day at 2.30pm, the Mayor announced that the food was ready. Many corporators said, “Nim oota namge beDa!” and boycotted the ‘Bhojana’ session.
BBMP doesn’t have its own canteen, unlike Vidhan Soudha. It takes a lot of time to hunt for a hotel, have food and come back, which effectively results in wastage of time for everyone. Sources say that this was the idea behind arranging food for the Council Meetings.