Pending bills in BBMP mount to unprecedented ₹6,000 crore-plus levels

Bills have been pending from April 2021. This, even as most of the contractors in the city have stopped work over non-payment of pending bills, bringing all works in the city to almost a standstill

August 24, 2023 09:30 pm | Updated August 25, 2023 01:00 pm IST - Bengaluru

BBMP head office at Hudson Circle in Bengaluru.

BBMP head office at Hudson Circle in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K

Pending bills in the city’s civic body has mounted to a whopping ₹6,077.7 crore, perhaps the highest ever for the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

Bills have been pending from April 2021. This, even as most of the contractors in the city have stopped work over non-payment of pending bills, bringing all works in the city to almost a standstill. 

The mounting of bills to unprecedented levels in the civic body, has set alarm bells ringing.

“The pending bills amount as per both the BBMP’s 2021-22 Budget and as per their annual accounts for 2021-22, the last time it declared pending bills officially, was in the region of ₹2,000 crore. It is mystifying as to how it has ballooned to over ₹6,000 crore today,” said Srikanth Vishwanathan, CEO, Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, who has tracked civic finances for a long time now. 

While the State government withholding payment of bills, pending an inquiry it has constituted by four senior IAS officers, is being cited as one of the reasons for the mounting bills, there are other reasons too.

Ahead of the State Assembly elections, the BBMP began works worth over ₹6,000 crore under the Amrutha Nagarothana scheme, even as that money was scheduled to be spent over three years as per the 2022-23 State Budget, sources said. 

Jayaram Raipura, Special Commissioner (Finance), BBMP, said that the financial situation of the civic body was good and pending bills had loomed large as the government had stopped payment pending inquiry into the quality of these works.

“The civic body is in a position to settle bills of up to ₹1,500 crore for works taken up under the BBMP funds and the State government grant of ₹600 crore is lying with the civic body and a second tranche of ₹700 crore grant is in the pipeline. We are waiting for the probe to be completed and further directions from the government,” he said. 

Contractors have been opposing not only the probe into these works, but also demanding payment of bills be delinked with the probe led by four IAS officers. 

K.T. Manjunath, president, BBMP Contractors’ Association, who recently sought the intervention of the Governor to get pending bills cleared, said the pending bills and an adamant government refusing to clear them had put contractors under huge stress.

“Contractors are in dire straits. Many are caught in a debt trap, pawned gold, cheques they have issued for bank loan EMIs have bounced. The government must de-link payment of pending bills and the probe,” he demanded. 

“It is ironic that government is suspicious of their own public finance systems. This is because there is lack of transparency in tendering, contracting, project monitoring and payments. If we fall into this cycle of stopping works and payments and revisiting their veracity for no fault of theirs, good contractors will lose trust in governments,” Mr. Vishwanathan said, adding it was high time the State government fixed the financial reporting system of the civic body.

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