Mayor, LDF councillors stage protest at treasury office

The City Corporation secured the release of funds to the tune of Rs.6.11 crore from the district treasury after a three-hour sit-in by the Mayor, councillors of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and various private contractors at the district treasury office on Monday evening. The last-minute release saved a major crisis for the civic body which was running a risk of clocking low expenditure for the financial year.

The sit-in started at 4.30 p.m., after bills for Rs.9.78 crore which were submitted at the treasury on Monday morning were not cleared. The entire space leading to the Treasury Director’s cabin was occupied by the contractors, who were waiting for the payment of works completed. Inside, the Mayor and standing committee chairpersons carried out several rounds of talks with the Director, who maintained that he was helpless due to the maximum limit of Rs.3 crore per department per day, specified by the State government.

Standstill

“The bills that were submitted are for works which were completed. If we don’t pay the contractors on time, the Corporation will come to a standstill. Over the past one week, we had got Rs.3 crore each released on all days. So, even if we had submitted the bills then, the treasury would have rejected them.

Earlier this month, they had rejected bills for Rs.13 crore of the Rajiv Awaz Yojana project, electricity bills and land acquisition bills. We are not even asking for that now,” said Mayor K. Chandrika.

Treasury Director S. Sreekumar said that the crisis was caused by the rush of bills to the treasury on the last day of the financial year.

“We have to clear the bills of not just local bodies, but all departments. In the past one week, Rs.3,752.09 crore has flowed from treasury to the bank, out of which Rs.2,966.68 crore has been disbursed till now. This system of rushing the bill on the last day needs to be changed. We end up staying awake till early morning the next day to clear this up. Also, from this year, we have made it a fully computerised system. So any entry after 12 O’ clock at night is impossible,” said Mr. Sreekumar.

The Corporation authorities said that this is the first time that such a situation arose, even though every year many bills are submitted on the last day.

Late at night

“Every year, on March 31, we usually get bills cleared even till late night. But this year, they are using this reason only because of the government’s precarious financial situation,” said Works Standing Committee chairman V.S. Padmakumar.

An agreement was reached after the arrival of V. Sivankutty, MLA, who held talks with the Treasury Director. After a few calls to the Finance Secretary, the director agreed to clear Rs.6.11 crore.

“Most of the affluent contractors submit their bills early and get their money on time. But the small-time contractors, who came for the sit-in on Monday, find it hard to finish the work on time due to cash crunch. All of them cannot be paid with this amount. The rest may have to wait till September at least,” said Palayam Rajan, welfare standing committee chairman.