Billboard contractors 'hoarding' Rs 100 crore, not paying bills: PMC
Following an internal audit that revealed these facts, the civic body is gearing up to blacklist and ban those contractors for three years, as well as take action against its own officials involved in the mess.
Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has advertised its intentions to finally act against hoarding contractors in the city, who have been taking the civic body for a ride. An internal audit conducted by the corporation on the status of revenue generated through hoardings in the city limits revealed that payment of about Rs 107 crore is pending from the hoarding contractors. The civic body has now decided to blacklist all these contractors and ban them for three years, as well as act against its own officials responsible for this lapse.
Corporator Avinash Bagwe, who has been tracking this issue since the beginning, alleged that PMC officials are deliberately not initiating any action against the lobby of principal contractors, and are only targeting he small fish.
“According to a report submitted by PMC on October 15, of about 1,800 hoardings, 703 have not come for renewal, and ads are still appearing without anyone paying any charges. Besides these, PMC has no records of about 221 hoardings in the city limits,” Bagwe said.
“Out of the total Rs 125 crore in revenue PMC was supposed to collect from hoarding contractors, the civic body has till now recovered just Rs 18 crore, which means about Rs 107 crore is still pending. This when PMC is already facing a revenue deficit,” Bagwe added.
Replying to the arguments, additional municipal commissioner Rajendra Jagtap said, “PMC has introduced a new rate of Rs 222 per sq ft per annum in the current financial year, which is five times more that previous rate. That’s why hoarding contractors have refused to pay the inflated bills, and they went to court and got a stay order. So even though the audit report shows over Rs 100 crore revenue deficit, in actuality the sum is not that large.”
PMC commissioner Mahesh Pathak said, “This year, the civic body has already received Rs 21 crore in revenue, and another Rs 8 crore is expected in the coming days.”
Jagtap added that out of the unregistered hoardings in the city,121 fall under railways’ jurisdiction, and hence PMC was unable to act against them.
Incidentally, after receiving orders from Bombay High Court to act against illegal hoardings in the city, Pune Municipal Corporation had carried out a drive in March 2013, and removed 131 billboards. But even after this so-called extensive drive, the audit report shows how hundreds of hoardings have not been registered for renewal. “In March, the PMC administration acted against temporary hoardings, and some officials who have are hand-in-glove with big contractors deliberately did not act against them. At least, now PMC should collect all the pending bills,” said a source.
Approx no of registered hoardings in the city