THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In one of the Council meetings held recently, a member of the Finance Standing Committee of the City Corporation, a UDF leader, had aired his thoughts aloud by asking what the Corporation advocates really were paid for? To win or to lose cases?
His suspicion seems to be grounded on the Local Audit Report 2010-11 of the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation which has admonished the local body for spending huge amounts as legal charges, when it failed to earn a favourable verdict in most of them.
The Local Audit Report points out that in the 2010-11 fiscal, a total of 202 cases were filed against the Corporation and were settled by the lower and higher courts. Of these, only 19 verdicts were in favour of the Corporation. But the Corporation spent a total of ` 2,68,400 for fighting the cases.
Most of the cases that move to the higher courts are related to the issuing of building permits and approving of bills forwarded by the contractors. The audit points out that the reason why a large number of cases related to building permit issues crop up should be studied.
‘’The Council also should consider curbing the huge amounts being spent as legal charges,’’ the report says.
‘’It is the corruption in the Town Planning Department, especially among the building inspectors who go to the site to check the construction, that results in the situation where buildings which should not be given permission are somehow authorised. But when it comes to allotting them permit or licence for functioning or when others move court against the construction, the irregularities come into the open. Then, the Corporation suddenly takes a U-turn and asks the owner to demolish the structure. Who will do it after already having spent lakhs on it? They will obviously move the court,’’ says a UDF leader in the Corporation.
The audit has also mentions that there is a trend in the local body of approving a building construction and then issuing a stop memo to it, taking the matter to court. The same with contractors too. When the Corporation refuses to pay them after getting the work done, they naturally move court, the report says.
‘’If the Corporation dumps this trend, it could save a lot of money by way of legal charges,’’ the audit report says. It also adds that the Corporation has spent ` 3,32,950 as legal charges in the 2011-12 fiscal in 203 cases against it.
The Corporation officials, however, say that steps have already been taken to curb the so-called corruption linked to Town Planning. The ‘middlemen-business’ in acquiring building permits has already been curtailed. With building permits being issued online now, the corruption has come down, they claim.