There is absolutely no control over the public money spending and this happens at every level. Right from the village panchayats and Municipal councils to the state and national level the public money is spent without much concern. The case of Margao Municipal Council in no different, with the payment of rupees one lakh per day to a private company to handle Sonsoddo waste only points out at high-level corruption.
Agitated Margao Municipal councillors on Thursday questioned the offer of the civic body to pay an amount of Rs 1 lakh per day to Fomento in lieu of the treatment of daily waste from August 10, with the councilors insisting to know the criteria adopted by Chief Officer Siddhivinayak Naik to arrive at the amount before giving the undertaking in the district court.
The Chief Officer, however, insisted that the district court’s order wherein the civic body had agreed to pay to Fomento Rs 1 lakh per day for treatment of waste from August 10-31 will be implemented in both letter and spirit.
Naik sought to put at rest the apprehensions raised by the Municipal councillors and citizens that the civic body by referring to district court’s order, stating that all the payments are without prejudice to the rights of the respective parties and subject to the decision in this matter as well as before the Learned Arbitral Tribunal or any higher authorities, including the High Court.
Incidentally, the Chief Officer explained that the civic body has now asked Fomento to give a break-up of the waste treatment expenses as the company has raised a bill of Rs 22 lakh for the period from August 10-31 for treating the waste supplied by the MMC at the Sonsodo plant.
Many councilors also requested the Chief Officer to go back to the court at the next date of the hearing scheduled on September 30 with a plea to revise the treatment cost from Rs. 1 lakh per day to around 25000-30000 per-day
The Chief Officer, however, pointed out that the civic body would go by the district court order while reassuring the council that the payments made by the civic body will be subject to the court decision as well as the matter before the Arbitral Tribunal and the High Court.
At the special meeting convened by Acting Chairperson, Tito Cardozo to specifically discuss the issue of making payments to Fomento for the treatment of city waste from August 10, the day when the termination notice came into effect till August 31.
Councilors demanded to know how the Chief Officer worked out the amount of Rs 1 lakh per day when neither Fomento nor the High Court had insisted on the payment to the company in lieu of the treatment of the waste. Councillor Ketan Kurtarkar, Avinash Shirodkar, Angelus Pereira, Jaffar Budani and Rupesh Mahatme wondered how the civic body had arrived at the Rs 1 lakh figure for the treatment of the daily waste. They demanded an explanation from the Chief Officer how the civic body has agreed to pay a uniform amount of Rs 1 lakh per day when the waste supplied by the MMC varies every day. Cornered by the councilors, the Chief Officer assured the councilors that the interest of the civic body has not been compromised in the court.
When councilor Rupesh Mahatme sought to know whether the Chief Officer has worked out an action plan to mop up revenue to make the payments to Fomento, Naik explained that the civic body can mop up revenue to the tune of Rs 5 crore if the house tax defaulters clear the tax dues to the Municipality.
Later, during the media briefing, the Chief Officer declined to shed light on the offer made by the civic body to pay Fomento at the rate of Rs 1 lakh per day. As he insisted that he will go by the court order, the media reminded the Chief Officer that the court has gone by his submissions made in the open court on August 31.
Meanwhile, an urgent meeting of like-minded citizens and taxpayers was held in Margao to discuss and deliberate on the decision of the municipality to pay Fomento Green Rs 1 lakh per day to handle the segregated waste at Sonsoddo.
At the meeting, the citizens adopted a resolution to explore the possibility of approaching the High Court against the offer of 1 lakh payment to Fomento in case appropriate action is not taken by the Council or the government.
Councillor Avinash Shirodkar, ex-councillor Auda Viegas, Laurel Abranches, Agostinho Gama, Edward Lourenco, Navin Raikar, Sunil Naik and several other NGO members were present at the meeting.
The Shadow Council for Margao has alleged that it appears that the facts have been withheld from the court giving advantage for the undue extra payment at the cost of the taxpayers of Margao.
Most of those present observed that, since arbitration matters don’t wind up early, if Rs 1 lakh per day continues to be paid, it would not take long for the Council to go bankrupt. “This, in turn, would force the Council to hike taxes and sanitation fees. Therefore, dissolve the council and appoint an administrator as they are doing nothing good for the people of the town,” Sunil Naik demanded.
The participants were unanimous in their decision to demand that the Council and the government should legally address the issue and save the public exchequer from unwarranted financial burden.
Councillor Savio Coutinho said, “Right from the bidding time in 2009-10, Fomento had quoted Rs 7.41 crore and another bidder Rs 5.35 crore in the first bid. In the second bid, that is, the money for running the plant, Fomento did not quote anything and though it was Rs 2 crore extra in the first bid the High Power Committee decided to award it to Fomento. Today they are claiming Rs 14 crore on the basis of their valuation. It was the duty of MMC to appoint a valuer and check what they claimed. This in itself suggests that there was some deviation of agreement. Why should the MMC pay anything more than the tendered amount?”