The civic body’s budget may end up being a repeat of the last year’s poor show. Despite a massive Rs37,052.15 crore budget outlay, civic chief Ajoy Mehta’s budget has not presented any roadmap on how it plans to ensure timely completion of projects. In the absence of reforms in this sector, the civic body’s tardy record of implementing budgets is unlikely to change. Coming in the backdrop of official data which shows how only 25.59% of the total budget has been spent till January-end, the lack of a mechanism to improve this may serve as a disappointment.
The revamp of Veer Jijamata Bhosale Udyan and Zoo (Rani Baug), Bird Park at Powai, public toilet constructions, pumping stations at Reay Road (Britannia) and Khar Road (Gazdarbund), fire regional command centres at Mankhurd and Vikhroli are a few examples of its failed attempt at speeding up the projects.
In 2015-16, former civic chief Sitaram Kunte had announced the trend of timely completion of ongoing developments projects during his budget speech. However, even after a year, nothing seems to have changed.
This year, Mehta has made similar announcements on ensuring this doesn’t happen. “We need to ensure that the pace of infrastructure development and delivery of civic services is maintained by making our operations cost-effective and achieving higher operational efficiencies,” said Mehta, adding that all the department heads have to improve their spending efficiencies.
However, the budget has no concrete measures or detailed explanation on how civic body is going to achieve these goals. This lack of a plan has failed to impress activists.
“In the past one year, there have been delays in several big projects that are directly impacting the city. Unless the civic body fixes responsibility and sets tight deadlines, it is not going to happen. Also, there should be some kind of penalty for those delaying the projects. The delay in completion also causes cost escalations, wasting public money,” said Nikhil Desai, citizen activist from Matunga.
The budget has also maintained a studied silence on malpractices like corruption and cartelisation of contractors in some key departments like the storm water drain and road departments.
These malpractices seem to have also infested the gardens department, where contractors had flouted more than 75% of the civic body’s estimate of maintaining 159 new playgrounds.