Contractors threaten to stop civil work over pending bills

A section of contractors has threatened to stop all on-going civil works in the city if the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) does not clear their pending bills within seven days.

However, the cash-strapped civic body seems unfazed by the threat.

Civic Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad said that the BBMP can make payments only when its financial condition improves.

K.T. Manjunath, president of the BBMP Karyanirata Guttigedarara Sangha, claimed that bills amounting to ₹2,500 crore are pending. “Over the past three months, no bill has been cleared. The BBMP is using the pandemic as a ruse to delay payments,” he alleged.

Contractors are currently carrying out civil works, such as repair and strengthening of drains, parks, footpaths and roads, in various wards worth nearly ₹6,000 crore.

Mr. Manjunath said, “The civic body has been able to collect nearly ₹2,000 crore from citizens as property tax. Why can’t the money be used to clear pending bills?”

However, contractors belonging to another association said they did not support the Sangha. K. Ambikapathy, president of the BBMP Contractors’ Association, said that they have had discussions with both Administrator Gaurav Gupta and Mr. Prasad.

“Both assured that bills for works taken up under the Nava Nagarothana scheme, 14th Finance Commission and State Finance Commission will be cleared from Thursday,” he said and added that some issues with regard to clearing bills were the result of violation of rules by the office of the chief accounts officer (CAO).

Recently, the CAO R. Govindraj was repatriated on charges of dereliction of duty and violation of rules in clearing bills of contractors. The office of the CAO was sealed and an inquiry is under way.

Mr. Prasad told The Hindu that bills for works taken up under various schemes will be cleared with funds from the State government. However, the civic body does not have funds to pay for works taken up in wards under the Programme of Works (POW).

“Despite the poor finances, more payments have been made to contractors this year than last year. We spend around ₹187 crore every month on salaries and solid waste management,” he said.

Senior officials said they would not give in to threats by contractors as many of the civil works under POW were ‘unnecessary’. “If contractors stop taking up these works, it means money saved for the civic body,” an official said.

The official also said that during the recent ward committee meetings, which are being chaired by officials in the absence of elected representatives, members of several RWAs had pointed out to bills being raised for works that were not actually executed.

“We will investigate such cases and cancel payments where applicable, apart from blacklisting the contractors concerned,” the official added.

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