Maintenance cost of own vehicles, hiring of lorries for waste movement continue to bleed Kochi Corporation’s coffers

The civic body had coughed up ₹95.85 lakh towards maintenance of vehicles during a 32-month period between April 2020 and December 2022. The charges rose from ₹36.31 lakh during the entire fiscal of 2020-21 to ₹59.54 lakh during the next 20 months till December 2022.

Updated - July 10, 2024 10:25 pm IST

Published - July 10, 2024 08:46 pm IST - KOCHI

The Kochi Corporation hires atleast 20 to 25 lorries daily for transporting waste to Brahmapuram.

The Kochi Corporation hires atleast 20 to 25 lorries daily for transporting waste to Brahmapuram. | Photo Credit: H. VIBHU

The maintenance cost of its own vehicles coupled with the cost of hiring lorries for transportation of waste to the solid waste treatment plant at Brahmapuram continue to bleed the Kochi Corporation’s coffers even as the civic body stares at a precarious financial situation.

According to the reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application by the Corporation’s vehicle cell, the civic body had coughed up ₹95.85 lakh towards maintenance of vehicles during a 32-month period between April 2020 and December 2022. The charges rose from ₹36.31 lakh during the entire fiscal of 2020-21 to ₹59.54 lakh during the next 20 months till December 2022. This, however, might include pending dues from previous years as well, said sources.

Initially, two questions in the RTI application regarding the annual maintenance expenses of the civic body’s vehicles, including those used for collection and transportation of waste, were left unanswered by the health wing. Following this, RTI activist Raju Vazhakkala appealed to the State Information Commission, which directed the Corporation’s vehicle cell to provide the information.

Under the existing system in the Corporation, the driver of a vehicle reports the need for maintenance, which is verified by the engineering wing after which the work order is placed with the workshop. On the completion of maintenance, the engineering wing is supposed to verify whether the said works have been done. That being the case, very rarely an estimate is reworked or pegged down or charges contested as vehicle maintenance head continues to be a major money guzzler for the Corporation, said informed sources.

Originally, the Corporation had 128 vehicles, of which 28 are used for official purposes, leaving the rest for waste collection and transportation. But nearly half of those 100 vehicles, including 24 lorries, were more than 15 years old and had to be retired in compliance with a Central government order to that effect. Of the remaining vehicles, around 20 continue to be in disrepair effectively leaving the Corporation with just 30 vehicles for waste collection and transportation.

In fact, out of the 13 compact vehicles for the movement of biodegradable waste to the Brahmapuram plant, only five are functional, while the rest are mostly three-wheelers for waste collection alone. This effectively means that the Corporation at any given point of time hires anywhere between 20 and 25 lorries for transporting waste and that too often from the same party. Vehicles deployed in the eastern parts are hired for ₹3,640 a day and those in the western parts for ₹3,400, as per the RTI response.

The stop-gap arrangement has been in place for a few years now, thanks to two failed attempts to tender the contract for transportation for which the ruling and the Opposition fronts blame each other.

“The initial tender had to be scrapped as Antony Kureethara [Opposition leader] made a hue and cry over the low security deposit despite the bid being very low. When the work was tendered a second time, the contractors ganged up, and the bid was unacceptably high. The party concerned dragged the Corporation to the court for not accepting it. The court had directed the Corporation to hear the party by which time the model code of conduct ahead of the Lok Sabha elections had kicked in,” said Mayor M. Anilkumar.

However, M.G. Aristotle, secretary, UDF parliamentary party in the Corporation, accused the ruling front of deliberately delaying the tendering process with vested interests. “The first tender was suspended on a trivial clerical error on the part of the Corporation that could have been easily resolved through negotiations. The Corporation is sustaining huge losses by continuing with the rates fixed during the fire breakout at Brahmapuram plant last year,” he said.

Mr. Anilkumar, however, claimed that rates had been fixed three years ago, and that it was only likely to go up whenever the work was tendered.

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