Mumbai: Former civic chief slams BMC's 'Good Governance' project

Former civic chief Johnny Joseph identified a major flaw in the 'E-office' pilot project of the B ward, wherein the ward officer had been excluded from receiving complaints regarding illegal constructions and encroachments

Their act of ‘Good Governance’ brought not-so-good news to the officials from the B ward of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), after a former civic boss identified a major loophole in their project and took them to task for it.

(Left to right) BMC PRO Vijay Khabale explains while Additional Municipal Commissioner Rajiv Jalota looks on as former civic chief Johnny Joseph (in blue), and bureaucrats Dinesh Afzalpulkar (in suit) and D M Sukthankar (extreme right) judge ‘Good Governance’ posters at the BMC office on Friday.
(Left to right) BMC PRO Vijay Khabale explains while Additional Municipal Commissioner Rajiv Jalota looks on as former civic chief Johnny Joseph (in blue), and bureaucrats Dinesh Afzalpulkar (in suit) and D M Sukthankar (extreme right) judge ‘Good Governance’ posters at the BMC office on Friday.

Earlier this month, the B ward — comprising Dongri, Umerkhadi, Musafirkhana areas — launched ‘E-office’, a pilot initiative to address complaints and grievances of citizens online and reduce manual handling of files (see box). Citizens can use the portal to send in their complaints on all civic matters directly to the assistant municipal commissioner — the ward officer — who would then access them using a digital signature.

On Friday, a poster competition was organised at the BMC headquarters wherein all departments and units had to present a poster on an act of good governance they had committed. As part of this, B-ward officials sought to present their ‘E-office’ project to the panel of high-level bureaucrats composed of former civic chief Johnny Joseph, D M Sukhthankar and Dinesh Afzalpurkar.

Bad governance
When explained the purpose of the project, Joseph identified a fundamental flaw in the complaint system. Complaints of all natures were marked to the ward officer, except those pertaining to illegal constructions, alterations and encroachment. These had been, instead, forwarded to the assistant engineer (maintenance); the ward officer was kept out of loop.

Pointing this out, Joseph slammed the officials, saying, “Why is the complaint not routed through the ward officer? How is the assistant engineer’s signature considered foolproof? This should also go to the ward officer. If this is how a pilot project works, how do you expect the complete system to be 100 per cent secure?” Joseph’s concern was that if complaints do not reach the ward officer, then appropriate action would not be taken and that excluding him could, instead, lead to more corruption — especially when B ward is known to have several old structures with owners starting construction and alteration without civic permission. After being subjected to severe cross-questioning, Additional Municipal Commissioner Rajiv Jalota looked ruffled.

The panel seemed surprised at the poor handling of a ‘Good Governance’ project. Joseph then directed Jalota to issue a circular to revise the whole system and route complaints for unlawful construction, alteration and encroachment through the ward officer as well.

The ‘E-office’ project

The BMC is in the process of digitising all its work. The ‘E-office’ project is part of this initiative to offer faster citizen services. Of all the 24 wards, B ward was the first one to kick off the project on pilot basis. The purpose of this venture is to replace manual handling of files and documents with an efficient electronic system. This is being done to increase accountability, assure data security and integrity. You can log on to bit.ly/13CFeMo to register a complaint.

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