From tax fiasco to bicycle scam, cases high on MCG vigilance wing’s radarUpdated: Jan 19, 2020 23:55 IST
Necessitated by the litany of complaints received against the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) on multiple state grievance redressal platforms, the civic body’s two-member vigilance wing, which was formed on January 8, has its work cut out.
From multiple complaints of illegal construction, encroachments, lack of basic amenities, financial irregularities in civic projects to quality testing ongoing projects, the team—headed by additional commissioner Amardeep Jain, who is assisted by superintendent engineer Satyawan Sharma—has a long list of upsets it will be required to set right. However, among issues that may find priority on its list are MCG’s 20-month-long investigation that revealed the possibility of 302 ghost workers operating within the civic body; a missing bicycles scam and the 2017 property tax fiasco.
In August 2014, the MCG had purchased 600 bicycles, priced at ₹33.67 lakh, for the weekly Raahgiri events aimed at pedestrians reclaiming the right to use public spaces. Just over a year after they were purchased, in September 2015, the MCG could not directly account for 172 of them. Since bicycles worth over ₹9.65 lakh could not be accounted for, in August 2017, the Haryana Lokayukta issued a notice to the MCG in the matter. At the time, the then commissioner of MCG V Umashankar had stated that the civic body has a 2016-document stating “donated” to show for the missing cycles and “the Lokayukta officials could come to Gurugram to examine records”.
However, five years later, there is no clarity about whom where the cycles donated to. To make matters worse, the remaining 428 cycles are also corroding at the Sector 29 fire station since the last four years.
An MCG official privy to the matter, explained the process of donation by the MCG requesting anonymity as he is not authorized to speak with the media. “Whenever the MCG makes any donations, it keeps a complete record of the agency, NGO, a private company, government body, or an individual it is donated to, along with a receipt and an acknowledgement letter. In the bicycle case, there is no such extensive set of documents, there is only one receipt stating ‘donated’ that does not divulge much details. It could have simply been formulated when the Lokayukta had sent a notice,” he said.
PROPERTY TAX FIASCO
In August 2017, MCG officials discovered that two of its employees had changed property type of 95 commercial properties, taxed its owners under residential slabs and pocketed the conversion charges. While the MCG was in the dark, the 95 owners thought they had paid the conversion charge to the MCG.
The two floated a fake website, through which they modified property tax records and forged signatures of the MCG commissioner, joint commissioner and zonal taxation officers to generate new property tax bills.
Since the property tax slab for commercial properties, on an average, is four times higher than that of residential properties, the 95 owners together saved ₹6crore.
The so-called modifications took place throughout 2016 and were discovered a year later during a routine MCG audit in August 2017. The discovery created ripples across the state, prompting the then Urban Local Bodies (ULB) minister Kavita Jain to seek an explanation from the MCG.
Of the two officials, one was an outsourced worker who was sacked immediately. The other, however, was a permanent staff member. The matter was forwarded to the Gurugram Police for investigation. In August 2018, a committee of the Haryana Vidhan Sabha had pulled up the Gurugram Police and directed them to file a progress report, which led to the formation of an SIT team. Nearly two years later, ambiguity continues.
Recently appointed ACP (crime branch), Preetpal Singh Sangwan, said, “As per my knowledge, the report had been submitted to the Haryana government somewhere last year. However, I am not aware of its content as I have recently joined the Gurugram police.”
302 GHOST WORKERS
During an MCG House meeting in September last year, a 20-month long investigation of all 1,896 outsourced workers, barring the sanitation wing, revealed that 302 workers could not be accounted for, leading to suspicions that they were ghost workers.
It took MCG officials four months to compile a list of such workers who could not be accounted for and forward it to the committee investigating the hiring process. To ascertain the existence of such employees, the committee will commence the interviews from February.
However, members of the investigating committee said it was only after repeated notices to the MCG that a list was submitted.
“It took seven notices from us for the MCG to send its outsourced workers for the interview, even then 302 were found to be absent. Later on, we discovered that many had been sent to fill the numbers even though they no longer worked with the MCG. The main problem with the entire process was that there was no nodal officer from whom details could be procured. We had to go one-by-one to each of the MCG wings for getting information. The formation of a vigilance wing, we hope, will make our ongoing investigation easy as we are getting ready to start the next round of interview process,” Ward 34 councillor RS Rathee, who heads the MCG committee investigating the anomalies in the hiring of outsourced workers, said.
All MCG head of departments have been directed to cooperate with the vigilance team and facilitate enquiry. The vigilance wing also has the power to hire an agency for collecting and testing of samples related to any probe.
“The idea behind the creation of such a wing is bringer to greater transparency in the day-to-day functioning of the MCG. We will take action against all pending and upcoming cases, as per law,” Head of MCG vigilance wing Amardeep Jain said.