For all the promise of bringing in transparency in the functioning of BBMP, the civic body has decided against any probe into the alleged irregularities in advertisements and hoardings.
The decision came despite an internal report by Assistant Commissioner (advertisements) K. Mathai pegging the revenue loss due to illegal advertisements at Rs. 2,000 crore and recommending a probe by CID or CBI.
Mr. Mathai said, “I have submitted my report. It is up to the administration to make good the revenue loss in whichever way possible. The administrator will take action as he sees fit.”
BBMP Administrator T.M. Vijay Bhaskar told The Hindu that the civic body does not see the need for a probe. However, the report had several other suggestions, which are being discussed and an attempt will be made to implement them.
Mr. Mathai’s report listed out three major reasons for the loss. The prime one being laxity in enforcement and collection of fines. He has alleged that zonal level officials and the legal department are hand in glove with those putting up illegal hoardings. “The revenue inspectors know of all the illegal hoardings in their jurisdictions. But even repeated show cause notices have failed to generate any response,” he has said.
The report pointed out the loopholes in the law that has led to revenue loss. If an application seeking permission for a hoarding is not processed within 45 days, it is deemed to be permitted. BBMP has not collected tax or fine from any of these hoardings, claiming they are illegal. However, they have turned legal according to the ‘deemed legal’ provision. Thousands of such cases are pending in various civil courts.
Mr. Mathai has come down heavily on the functioning of the legal cell in the BBMP and accused the department of being a major cause for revenue loss. Thousands of such cases regarding hoardings have been stayed by courts from the past five years and the department has made no effort to vacate the stay orders.
“The law clearly states that if tax is not paid for a year, then the hoarding will automatically turn illegal. This provision can be used to vacate most of the stay orders and bring in revenue, but is suppressed,” he said.
Confusion over advertisement policy
Confusion reigns over the advertisement policy. The former BBMP council had adopted a resolution to increase advertisement rates before doing a U-turn in 2014 when it adopted yet another resolution to make the city free of hoardings. However, the State government did not approve of the blanket ban on hoardings.
BBMP Administrator T.M. Vijay Bhaskar went against the resolution saying the civic body is not in a financial position to give up such an important source of revenue and restarted the process of giving permissions for hoardings.