Patiala MC circumvents RTI plea seeking info on defaulting ad firm

  • Vivek Gupta, Hindustan Times, Patiala
  • Updated: May 02, 2016 15:30 IST
A unipole put up by the Arc Outdoor Media Limited at the Sheran Wala Gate in Patiala on Sunday. (HT Photo)

The municipal corporation has circumvented a right to information (RTI) plea seeking information on a Noida-based advertisement firm, Arc Outdoor Media Limited, that defaulted over Rs 10-lakh payment to the civic body in February, which was pending in lieu of the allotment of 16 prime unipoles in the city.

The civic body is already allegedly going soft on the firm as neither was it stopped from doing business in the city nor its contract revoked. A probe ordered by MC commissioner PS Gill soon after the firm’s Rs 10-lakh cheque, dated February 6, bounced, has also been indecisive so far.

Now the attempt by its officials not to make public the terms and conditions of the agreement with the firm along with other details, as sought in the RTI application, have raised serious questions over its working.

The application was moved by local resident Davinderpal Singh in the second week of February soon after the local media highlighted the issue. He had asked for the copy of the agreement and the notices issued to the firm against the pending dues and the correspondence received from the firm. Strangely, public information officer (PIO) Harkiranpal Singh, who also happens to hold multiple duties, skipped the 30-day deadline in furnishing the information.

Davinder Pal told the HT that soon after this he moved an appeal before the commissioner who, in his capacity as the first appellate, directed the Public information officer (PIO) on March 31 to furnish all the information asked in the application within seven days.

“To my utter surprise, I was again denied a copy of the agreement and other important documents relating to the contract with the firm and I was then forced to move the state commission recently,” he added

He said that the denial of the public information, which nowhere pertains to third party information or anything that comprises national security, was a clear attempt to suppress public voice against deep-rooted corruption in the civic body. “It is a clear example of how officials continue to support the defaulting firm at the cost of its already staggering revenue,” he added.

The firm, it is learnt, was allotted 16 roundabouts at a monthly payment of nearly Rs 3 lakh in lieu of maintaining streetlights. Except for the initial payment of Rs 3 lakh, it has not made any payment to the MC even as its liability continues to increase.

Councillors train guns

Several councillors have already trained guns against executives over the issue.

BJP councillor Anil Bajaj said that he was surprised by the fact that a contractor has defaulted over a government payment and the MC has yet not stopped him from operating in the city.

He added that the manner in which the ad firm was awarded the contract in July last year without submitting any tender, followed by the default in payment thereafter, made it a clear case of violation of government rules. While the commissioner could not be contacted as he was on a month’s leave due to election duty, mayor Amrinder Singh Bajaj said that he had already deliberated upon the issue with senior officials and it was expected to be resolved soon. “There is no confusion in the fact that either the firm will have to pay all the pending dues or the contract will be revoked. We will soon take a call,” he added

PIO Harkiran Pal Singh said that the applicant was duly supplied information. However, a copy of the agreement could not be provided since it was not meant for public consumption.

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