BBMP must get finances in order

The failure of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to clear payments to contractors and workers to the tune of Rs 1,600 crore lays bare the inept, insensitive and inefficient manner in which the civic body’s finances are being managed. When the BBMP presented its budget in February this year, it laid out a total expenditure plan of Rs 10,000 crore for the year 2018-19. With the state headed for polls in May, it made grand promises to woo all sections of society. It promised to build helipads in all eight zones of Bengaluru to provide air ambulances and ferry VIPs. It pledged Wi-Fi hotspots in bus stands and major roads, free food for pourakarmikas, multi-storeyed accommodation for slum dwellers and waiver of medical bills of the city’s poor. It claimed to have sufficient funds to make good on its promises. However, four months thereon, bills and salaries are not being paid. Pourakarmikas have not received wages for over five months. Contractors who are maintaining the city’s streetlights, de-silting its storm water drains and repairing roads have not been paid for work done.

Senior BBMP officials are proffering all kinds of excuses for its financial indiscipline. Pourakarmikas have not been paid because biometric identification of all workers has not been completed, they argue. Several ‘ghost workers’ apparently figure on the payrolls and salaries are being drawn in their names. While these may be valid problems, withholding salaries to pourakarmikas, among the most exploited workers in the city, is unconscionable. Meanwhile, contractors maintaining Bengaluru’s streetlights are in the dark regarding when the BBMP will pay their bills. Understandably they are angry. Although they will continue to operate streetlights, they have refused to repair or replace bulbs and fixtures in an attempt to press the BBMP to pay up. How long before they escalate their protest and stop operating streetlights as well? Contractors de-silting drains and repairing roads have complained the BBMP has not paid their dues, either. Can we afford to have them striking work when the monsoons are here?

What is the BBMP doing with its funds? Are these funds being misappropriated and diverted to personal pockets? When salaries and bills are not paid promptly, how can BBMP expect vendors to deliver services? It’s time Mayor Sampath Raj and BBMP Commissioner M Maheshwar Rao took a serious look into the Palike’s finances and ensured payment of dues to workers and vendors of various services. The city and citizens must not be put to any hardship on account of the failures of the Palike and its officials. 

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BBMP must get finances in order

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