Snehal Ambekar, the mayor of Mumbai, is involved in a controversy over the use of the civic body’s development fund.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has alleged that the distribution of development funds in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is influenced by contractors.
It has even approached the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), which has asked the for mer to furnish details in support of its allegations.
A probe into the allegations will hopefully reveal the truth.
While there is an element of political drama in it, the controversy has reminded everybody of the nature and use of such funds and once again has underlined the need for transparency in their use.
Elected representatives such as corporators, legislators and parliamentarians get their area development fund every year to use in their constituencies.
The BMC gives Rs1 crore to each corporator, the state government allocates Rs2 crore to the legislators and t he central gover nment gives Rs3 crore t o each member of Parliament, as local area development fund that the representatives concerned can use on work they choose.
Apart from directly elected representatives, members of Legislative Council and Rajya Sabha also get t he development f unds which they can use anywhere across the state and across India respectively. There are certain rules that govern the implementation of this scheme.
According to the rules, the elected representative is supposed to submit the list of projects to be taken up to the local authority, such as the ward officer ( at city level) or district collector. Contractors are allotted work and the bills are paid by the authority. These rules look good on paper but nobody knows if they are followed entirely.
It is alleged that the contractors are the ones who rule the roost. It is also alleged that the entire network is so strong that the contractors t hemselves approach the elected representatives with offers to bag the contracts.
I remember a legislator once telling me how a contractor had approached him and offered him a particular sum (10 % to 15% of the annual fund) as his ‘ cut’, after which he didn’t have to worry about anything.
He j ust needed to t ell the contractor which area and what work he wanted to undertake and sign relevant letters to the local authorities.
The rest would be taken care of by the contractors’ people.
The legislator refused the offer, saying he didn’t need the contractor’s help, but that gives an indication of what some unscrupulous elements must be doing.
Often, people complain about poor quality of work done with the local area development funds of elected representatives. In some cases, citizens even wonder why a particular work is necessary.
Maybe it is time the gover nment takes a serious look at the way such discretionary funds are used.
It could also be the right time to make changes in the scheme, to ensure the taxpayers’ money is not wasted.
A perfect way to ensure this would be to make the entire process completely transparent so that people would know how their elected representative is using the development funds.