BMC spent a large chunk of ₹1.44 lakh crore since 2012, but no audits of expenses yet
Since 2012, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has presented five budgets with an estimated total of Rs1.44 lakh crore and has spent a large chunk of this money, but all this expenditure has not been audited yet. Despite a mandate to complete an audit within six months of a closing year, the BMC has defaulted multiple times, officials confirmed.
An audit keeps a check on fraud and misappropriation of assets, achieving objectives and minimising costs. The BMC has been embroiled in scams such as roads and desilting, and crores of rupees have been misused.
According to section 121 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act, the audit is to be submitted to the standing committee of the civic body, which takes major financial decisions.
Senior civic officials said the audit department is facing a major staff crunch. While there are 985 posts in the department, currently only 605 are filled, which includes class IV employees, too. Another reason cited by officials is the delay in submission of documents by various departments for effective scrutiny.
In fact, the BMC cleared a backlog of audit reports from 2007 to 2010 only in 2011. An official from the audit department said, “We are in the process of closing the report for 2011-12, which will be submitted to the standing committee soon. The process for the audit reports of the subsequent financial years is in various stages. For instance, we have completed the BEST audit for the year 2015.”
If the department finds any lacunae in the accounts, it sends a note to the officials from the respective department, expecting a reply in three days. If the query still remains unsolved, then it makes an audit note in the report for the committee to scrutinise further.
DM Sukhtankar, former municipal commissioner, said an audit is important to keep a check on the accountability of the administration and the proposals passed by the elected wing. He said, “From the revenue standpoint, an audit helps understand the arrears expected and the recoveries pending. From an expenditure standpoint, it helps understand if the spending is as per provisions in the budget. It is an important exercise to maintain accountability.”
Opposition leader and Congress corporator Ravi Raja said, “If the reports are submitted on time, there are discussions on issues in the committee. If they submit reports dating back five years, then naturally, the interest also fades away. An audit is important in this sort of an environment where scams come to light every year.”
BMC’s accounts are also scrutinised by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of Maharashtra that submits a report every year to the municipal commissioner. In 2016, CAG had severely criticised BMC for poor planning, financial irregularities, incorrect data and incompetence in the Mumbai Sewage Disposal Project (MSDP) -2.