The elections to the urban local bodies or ULBs in Gujarat are round the corner...
The elections to the urban local bodies or ULBs in Gujarat are round the corner. However a glance at the CAG report on the finances of these ULBs in the sixth most urbanised state of the country reveal that over 53 percent of the Central government grant released to these bodies between 2010-13 are lying unspent, states the latest report from Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).
As per the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission, Gujarat is eligible to get a Central Grant of over Rs 1300 crore for ULBs between 2010-15. Against this Government of India (GoI) has released Rs 475 crore for the three financial years between 2010-13 to 167 ULBs (includes 159 nagarpalikas and eight municipal corporations). Of this released grant, Rs 251 crore (53 percent) was lying unutilised, pointed out the auditor in a report tabled in the Gujarat Assembly on Tuesday.
“A review of the finances of the ULBs revealed that increase in total expenditure (57 percent) during 2010-13, did not keep pace with increase in total available funds (65 percent),” the report stated.
“It was also observed that no expenditure was incurred by 17 nagarpalikas, though a grant of Rs 35.74 crore was released to them during 2010-13. The purpose of release of funds under the 13th finance commission was thus defeated,” stated CAG. These observations from the country’s top auditor comes a day ahead of a state government sponsored international conference — Municipalika 2014 — which will focus on topics of 100 new smart cities, Swachch Bharat Mission and Housing for all.
Gujarat has about 187 urban local bodies comprising of eight municipal corporations, 159 nagarpalikas and 20 notified areas. “The details of expenditure incurred by others were not made available to the audit,” stated CAG about the missing figures about their respective expenditures from some of the ULBs.
CAG has also asked the Gujarat government to make “earnest efforts” to introduce Geographical Information System (GIS) based database for collecting property tax in major municipalities. The property tax on land and buildings is the mainstay of ULB’s own revenue. This tax is collected by ULBs on area-base system.
“In order to avoid property tax from escaping the tax net, various Indian cities — Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kanpur, etc — have opted for GIS mapping for listing properties. In Gujarat, GIS mapping for listing properties was implemented only in Rajkot Municipal Corporation out of the four biggest municipal corporations in the state,” the auditor stated.