An accident insurance scheme introduced by the Kochi Corporation 20 year ago has become a liability for around 15 former corporation councillors who are seeking people’s mandate this time.
The former civic representatives had to repay Rs.59,610 each just after the notification to the local bodies was issued to clear them off all dues and become eligible to contest the election. All the contestants obtained Non-Liability Certificate after remitting the amount, which otherwise would have ended up in rejecting their nominations.
Though the State cabinet had decided not collect the money from the councillors and issued directions to the Local Self Government Department to that effect, the orders could not be formally issued as the model code of conduct came into force.
The State Legislative Committee report and the Kerala Local Fund Accounts committee objected to the proposal on the ground that the State government’s clearance was not obtained for the project. Later, the Kochi Corporation secretary issued notices to all the former councillors to equally shoulder the premium amount of Rs.35.70 lakh.
Incidentally, the local body had spent Rs.1.02 crore as premium for the project between 1996 and 2003. However, the audit committee objected to Rs.95.84 lakh and made the councillors individually liable while approving the spending of Rs.7 lakh for the project, said David Parambithara, who is contesting the election from the Ravipuram Division of the Kochi Corporation.
The prominent candidates who had to pay back the money this time include T.J. Vinod, K.J. Basil, A.B. Sabu, K.J. Sohan, Delena Pinhiero, Shyamala S. Prabhu, K.J. Prakashan and Vinnie Abraham. Former Kochi Mayor C.M. Dinesh Mani and Deputy Mayor C.K. Manisankar are also liable to pay the amount. In a representation to the Chief Minister, the councillors pointed out that the decision to recover the premium amount from the councillors was unjustified as the insurance scheme was implemented by Oriental Insurance Company, a public sector undertaking.