Gram panchayats, urban bodies can’t clear arrears

Funds mismanagement and official apathy has seen the electricity bills of urban local bodies and gram panchayats reach staggering amounts that cannot be paid back. In total, 204 gram panchayats and seven urban local bodies in the district owe Mangalore Electricity Supply Company (Mescom) around Rs. 81 crore.

A chunk of this is by Mangalore City Corporation, which owes Rs. 15.32 crore – half of which is accrued by Thumbe Water supply station.

Jagadish, Chief Accounts Officer of MCC, blamed the insufficient government grants meant for electricity payment. “Our bill is around Rs. 2.4 crore monthly, while the government doesn’t even give this much for a quarter (three months). The consumption charge and quantity are rapidly rising, and the difference amount has accumulated beyond control,” he said.

An indicator of the fund management problems is the interest that has built up over the years. This is particularly stark for gram panchayats, where the interest, cumulatively, is nearly Rs. 18.5 crore.

Top among these is Someshwar GP, which has defaulted on Rs. 1.83 crore – which is shocking when compared to the much-larger Moodbidri Town Council that owes just Rs. 10 lakh.

The burden is to such an extent that Panchayat Development Officer (PDO) Keshava Poojary says it is impossible to clear the bills. Since 2001, the interest component of the bill has gone up to Rs. 60 lakh.

Numerous gram panchayats and councils have written to the State government asking for enhanced grants or for the bills to be waived.

Dereliction of PDOs

Calling it a “huge crisis” that has affected developmental projects, K. Koragappa Naik, Zilla Panchayat president, blamed PDOs for the situation. “We have conducted inquiries into GPs where bills are unusually high. The water supply pumps are not metered, or pumps still in dry borewells, and in come cases, private pumps are being paid for the GP. There has been no effort by PDOs to control consumption,” he said.

Operations hit

Mescom Managing Director S. Sumanth said repeated reminders had been sent to the local bodies to pay the bill. “We cannot cut power supply as water supply would be hit or streetlights would not function,” he said. Timely payment would “really help us,” he said.

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