Assets of babus taken off BMC site, reveals RTI query
RTI response reveals civic body has stopped uploading asset details of officers on website since 2016 after circular by chief Ajoy Mehta
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis have asked ministers to declare their assets, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is singing a different tune. It has overturned its own diktat of 2013, which stated details of assets of civic officials have to be uploaded on its website. A Right To Information (RTI) query has revealed that BMC has stopped uploading these details since 2016, when Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta issued another circular about it.
Activists have alleged that this will benefit corrupt officials, especially those working in Building Proposal, Vigilance, and Roads departments, as they will easily be able to hide their disproportionate assets. In August, RTI activist Jeetendra Ghadge had filed an application seeking information regarding the filing of assets returns of class A and B officers in the civic body. In reply, BMC said it has stopped uploading assets details of staff on the website since 2016, following a GR issued in 2014.
Cancelled own diktat
BMC cancelled its own diktat issued in 2013 by then additional municipal commissioner Mohan Adtani, under which the civic body had told HODs to file assets details of all employees online. On August 12, 2016, it issued another circular signed by Deputy Municipal Commissioner (general administration) Sudhir Naik, additional municipal commissioner I A Kundan, and Mehta, asking the General Administration Department (GAD) to not upload details online, but to submit them to HODs.
Ghadge said, "Mehta has always maintained that corrupt officials won't be spared, and transparency in the system will be the main focus. But this information reveals a different scenario. Decision of not uploading assets returns online exposes the 'transparency agenda'. It protects corrupt officials who have disproportionate assets.
"I hope better sense prevails and annual assets returns of class A and B officials are uploaded again, as it will act as a deterrent for corrupt employees. What is more surprising is that the BMC issued a diktat two years after the state government's GR." Another activist, Anil Galgali, said, "Under Maharashtra Civil Services (Conduct) Act, 1979, all government officials are supposed to submit their assets details. If this circular is implemented, then all officers will be scared of being involved in illegal practices, as they will be under constant watch."
When contacted, Naik said, "All employees are supposed to submit their assets details before HODs. We never issued a circular that they be put online." When asked about the circular issued in 2016, asking these details not be put up online, he said, "I will have to check documents and only then I can comment." Speaking to mid-day, Mehta said, "We go by Government Resolutions (GRs) on such issues. On administrative matters, we follow state circulars, and the state follows the circulars of the Government of India."
Speaking about the GR issued in 2014 about stopping uploading assets details of employees on the website, he added, "It should have been implemented in 2014 itself. These are larger issues and all administrative matters, including pay commissions, are decided by the state and central governments, and the corporation follows them."
Did Mehta okay Kamala Mills user change?
MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande alleged that the municipal commissioner had allowed a change of user of mill land for Kamala Mills, after which several restaurants and pubs were opened there. Deshpande also alleged the BMC had not taken action against the official from G-south ward, who was behind the permissions granted to these eateries. "I will meet the CM and demand an inquiry against Mehta as he is equally responsible for this mishap," said Deshpande. When asked about Deshpande's allegation about change of user, Mehta refused to comment.