Money allocated, but will BMC spend it right?

  • Kunal Purohit, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 06, 2015 00:43 IST

As the dust settles with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) announcing a total outlay of Rs33,514.15 crore for 2015-16 on Wednesday, the question now being asked is what the budget means for the city residents?

While the civic body has allocated crores of rupees for essential civic services, does it mean that civic governance will be any better? Not necessarily.

In the budget presented by BMC chief Sitaram Kunte, there was the usual increasing and decreasing of budgetary allocations for key departments such as roads and storm water drains. But the budget did little to address the problem of the money being spent well, or being utilised at all.

For instance, every single year, the civic body has been spending thousands of crores to construct roads. But commuters and motorists will collectively agree they have had little to no respite from all the work that is carried out.

“The problem with this budget, as with many previous ones, is that it is only focussed on money. Lack of money was never the problem in the city, the civic body has to focus on how it spends it,” said Milind Mhaske, project director at Praja, a not-for profit that focuses on governance issues.

Lack of reforms in execution of projects is not the only problem. Part of the issue, as seen in Kunte’s budget, is the inability to allocate money for new projects, and instead spend a large amount on administrative costs. For instance, the BMC allocated only 35% of its total budget towards new projects last year.

“Such a budget means little for the city. Thousands of crores of taxpayers’ money are being channelled into mechanisms that are already corrupted. How can this translate into an improvement,” asked Dharmesh Vyas, former Congress corporator and general secretary of the party.

HT had reported how the civic body had been able to spend only 24% of its budget meant for new projects. However, lack of capacity building of its department has meant that even this money is not being used properly.

The civic body has now scaled down its estimate of expenditure and allocated only a maximum of Rs7,348 crore, a drop of 33%, from Rs11,003 in its revised expenditure budget figures. Officials admit only a fraction of this money will be utilised.
As a result, Kunte has hiked the budget for spending on new projects by merely 7.5% from last year.

Mhaske said the BMC needs to have a performance budget. “Why not come out and disclose just how much of the budget was implemented and for what? Unless they break it down for the common man, this budget may simply remain an accounting agency,” said Mhaske.

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