The synchronised raids conducted by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) across 27 offices of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) are welcome but sadly such exercises do not serve any purpose nor do they instil any fear among corrupt officers due to the poor conviction rate. But the bigger question is, why such acts of corruption and mismanagement are not regularly red-flagged by the internal audit department or the vigilance wing of the BBMP which are supposed to act as watchdogs. Either the mechanism of internal checks and balances has collapsed completely or those in charge of these departments are in cahoots with the corrupt, or both. The raids on BBMP follow several complaints about certain officers favouring a few people after accepting illegal gratification, thereby causing a huge loss to the exchequer. In one case, contracts for advertising on BBMP property were awarded without calling for tenders even as the outstanding amount of Rs 230 crore for the previous year remained uncollected. Irregularities were also found in issuing transfer of development rights (TDR) certificates to favour certain builders and landlords. In the engineering department, it was found that two bills were raised for a single work. The revenue department had favoured several commercial building owners and residential apartments by levying a much lower property tax. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Some time ago, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had ordered an audit into the Rs 20,000 crore spent on city roads in the past five years. Predictably nothing came out of it.
Of the nearly 2,000 cases registered since its inception in 2016, the ACB has been able to obtain convictions in only about a dozen cases while 25 accused have been acquitted. While the dismal conviction rate is definitely a stumbling block, the government itself often protects corrupt officers by denying them permission to investigate or prosecute them. The ACB’s hands are tied in at least 520 cases as a prior sanction is yet to be accorded. Though unrelated to BBMP, the government had recently refused permission to investigate a KAS officer who was accused of illegally transferring ownership of 37 acres of gomaal land worth Rs 200 crore. The only plausible reason could be that the government fears that an investigation could lead to the doorsteps of ministers as corrupt officers cannot thrive without their blessings and connivance.
Civic agencies like BBMP and BDA are dens of corruption with no Chief Minister making an attempt to clean them up. Unless the men at the top have the resolve, courage and conviction to act decisively, there is no hope for the citizens.