The 2017-2018 annual budget of Rs 137.7 crore of the municipal corporation here was passed amid allegations of corruption against its officials and office-bearers on Friday.
With change of guard in the state, the Congress councillors overshadowed SAD-BJP councillors, who once considered themselves superior during the proceedings of the budget meeting. The issue of 262 illegal appointments in the MC, connivance of officials and its office bearers in the construction of illegal buildings and encroachment of corporation land were raised at a high pitch by several councillors.
‘DEN OF CORRUPTION’
Pradeep Gola, a councillor, alleged that instead of working for the development of the city, MC officials and its office-bearers made it a den of corruption as several illegal and corrupt activities have taken place in the MC jurisdiction in the past one year.
“The corporation has completely turned a blind eye towards preferential treatment given to wards and relatives of officials, staff and councillors during the recruitment to different posts. I have concrete evidence of corrupt practices adopted during the entire process,” he said.
He added that “If you want, I can give you the names of officials and employees involved in corruption.” Congress councillors pitched in their demand to demolish illegal buildings and remove encroachments, which have come up at the behest of local SAD leaders of the city.
COMMISSIONER DEFENDS STAFF
On corruption, visibly upset MC commissioner Anil Garg came in defence of his staff and said, “You can’t label all officials and the staff of the corporation as corrupt.” “Bring in the evidence, constitute any inquiry committee and probe the allegations, if any of the officials or any other staffer found guilty, stricter action will be taken against him,” Garg said.
SCRAPPING OF TRIVENI SOUGHT
Meanwhile, both SAD and Congress councillors demanded a resolution so as to scrap the contract of the Triveni private company limited, which has been assigned the project worth Rs 288 crore to lay water supply and sewerage lines in Bathinda.
Indeed, the councillors passed the budget without holding any detailed discussion on the features of the 11-page budget document. The lack of homework by representatives of the people was evident from the fact that many councillors, especially women, were caught unaware about proceedings.
MAJOR CHUNK TO GO INTO SALARIES
Though the civic body has passed a surplus budget of Rs 137.7 crore for 2017-2018 financial year, but its major chunk ie 56% of the total budget would go into salaries and pensions of employees. The corporation will spend Rs 77.9 crore on salaries and clearing benefits of pensioners this year against Rs 60 crore last year. However, with the addition of Rs 19 crore, which the civic body carried from ongoing financial year as opening balance, the expected income for the next year is estimated around Rs 157.5 crore.
Meanwhile, the corporation has specified only Rs 13.15 crore for development works, which fall in the non-committed category.
The MC had stipulated Rs 19.4 crore on development works last year, but it had managed to spend only Rs 5.1 crore.
Mayor Balwant Rai Nath said they have concentrated on income generation resources in the budget so as to improve the fiscal condition of the civic body.
“We are expecting to generate Rs 11.5 crore from property tax against last year’s Rs 11.1 crore. Moreover, efforts will be made to generate more than Rs 9.3 crore from sewerage and water supply bills,” the mayor said. The MC is banking upon other sources of income including Rs 76.8 crore from VAT, Rs 7 crore from excise duty, Rs 2.6 crore from outdoor advertisement, Rs 3.2 crore from cow cess, Rs 2 crore from development charges and Rs 1.4 crore from building fee.