Mira-Bhayandar Municipal Corporation begins recovery drive after citizen uses RTI to find Rs 1.4 crore unaccounted for since 1993.
The power of a simple Rs 10 Right to Information (RTI) application in probing how authorities are using public money is on display again, this time in the Mira-Bhayandar Municipal Corporation, entrusted the 89 square km township on Mumbai's northern edge.
Accounting consultant and Mira Road resident Pramod Patil's RTI application to the corporation in December threw up the names of over 70 officials and organisations whom the civic body has awarded advances, but who still haven't reported back with the money's use.
Rs 80 lakh of public funds, handed out to officials since 1993, is still unaccounted for.Officials also have to account for a further Rs 64.5 lakh they have drawn till November of this current financial year. The corporation's rules state that officials who take advances should account for its expenditure as soon as they spend the money, and certainly within that financial year.
Municipal Commissioner Sudamrao Gaikwad who has begun "a recovery drive" in December following Patil's application told Hindustan Times, "I am being strict and issuing recovery notices to officials, with the threat of the money being cut from their salary if they don't account for the spending immediately."
But Patil is skeptical, "Some of the officials have been transferred. Almost Rs 4 lakh was given to officials who have now retired and left. Officials who have money pending against their names since successive years are still drawing advances. The only term for this is financial mismanagement."
Sandip Shinde, an officer in the health department who from 1995 to 2006 has run up Rs 14.4 lakh of unaccounted advances says it is only a procedural lapse: "I have submitted bills to the government as per rules. I just need to give it to the corporation."
Gaikwad, head of the Rs 200 crore corporation argues, "The money is a routine amount, which will be recovered sooner or later." But a municipal auditor explains, "Officials have typically drawn money, spent what was needed and just kept the rest."
Municipal councilor Milan Mhatre says he is raising the issue in the house. "For a corporation that hasn't provided residents quality schools and roads, and is yet to build a hospital or a morgue, this is a significant sum of money."
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