The System of ULB Performance Grants is “Unaccountability by Design”

By Col Tejandra Pal Tyagi, Veer Chakra

As per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, the Government has decided to provide grants worth Rs.87,143 crore for urban local bodies (ULBs i.e Municipalities and Nagar Nigam) out of the central divisible pool of funds for the period 2015-20. Of this amount, 80% is called Basic Grant while the remaining 20% is Performance Grant. Performance Grants relate to regular audit of accounts, increase in own revenue sources and publishing service level benchmarks. This represents nearly a fourfold increase over the grants provided under the 13th Finance Commission.

The Performance Grant covering Audit, Revenue Generation and Publishing Service Level Benchmarks, will be released to ULBs based on the details submitted by respective State Governments. The Ministry of Finance has mandated the Ministry of Urban Development, Govt. of India to examine and recommend the claims for performance grants as received from States.

Publishing of “Service Level Benchmarks” by the ULBs has been given 50% weight while considering the claims of performance grant. The Municipality must measure and publish the Service Level Benchmarks relating to basic urban services each year, at least on the following aspects:

  • coverage of water supply by the ULB

  • achieving a reduction in non-revenue water

  • ensuring 24X7 water supply to all public & community toilets in city

  • scientific processing of waste in the city

Confederation of RWAs (CoRWA) demands that every ULB (Urban Local Body) should publish the “Service Level Bench Marks” mandatorily in local newspapers and RWAs should be invited to confirm the reality on ground before the performance grant is released.

The “service level benchmarks” may include all or any of the following items of service provided to the people by the ULBs/Municipal Corporations as per the 12th Schedule to the Constitution of India:

  • Urban planning including town planning.

  • Regulation of land-use and construction of buildings.

  • Planning for economic and social development

  • Water supply for domestic, industrial and commercial purposes.

  • Public health, sanitation conservancy and solid waste management.

  • Fire services.

  • Urban forestry, protection of the environment and promotion of ecological aspects.

  • Safeguarding the interests of weaker sections of society, including the handicapped and mentally retarded.

  • Slum improvement and up-gradation.

  • Urban poverty alleviation.

  • Provision of urban amenities and facilities such as parks, gardens, playgrounds.

  • Promotion of cultural, educational and aesthetic aspects.

  • Burials and burial grounds; cremations, cremation grounds and electric crematoriums.

  • Cattle pounds; prevention of cruelty to animals.

  • Vital statistics including registration of births and deaths.

  • Public amenities including street lighting, parking lots, bus stops and public convenience

Now, as the Chief Convener of the 7th National Conference of RWAs, I ask the following questions from my fellow RWAs from all over the Country:

  • Did any of us know about the performance grant before? And, if not, is it not the responsibility of the respective ULBs to apprise people about performance grant?

  • We have not seen anywhere “Service Level Benchmarks” being published in any newspaper by the ULB, Nagar Nigam or Municipality with the promise that they will provide these services. It was mandatory for claiming Performance Grants. This being so, what rights do the ULBs have to claim performance grants?

The period of the Performance Grant is coming to an end since it was from 2015 to 2020. Performance grant must have been claimed by the ULBs and Finance Ministry, I am sure, must have paid to them by now. The modus operandi to ensure that the claims for performance grants are genuine, the following checks and balance were introduced:

  • Third-party evaluation

  • Random verification by official teams

  • Other types of audits (Chartered accountants)

  • Cross verification with other reports like credit rating

  • Cross-checking at State level with figures of devolutions and scheme

None of the above parameters includes the beneficiaries to establish the availability of SERVICES provided by the ULBs on the ground. The Government Schemes, often fail because they do not include those for whom the schemes are formulated.

The Government may be the MOOTH  of the sword, the implementing Agency may be the Sword itself but the cutting edge of the Sword are the RWAs who alone can verify the performance on the ground and who are the final sufferers if the Performance Grant is claimed without providing the services on the ground.

See the brazen deceit of the Bureaucrats and the way UNACCOUNTABILTY is proliferated by design, when they make rules that it shall be the duty of each ULB to “SELF EVALUATE” and submit its claim for Performance Grant to the State Government not later than 30th September of each year for which the Performance Grant is being claimed in the prescribed format. We oppose this SELF EVALUATION tooth and nail.

In view of the aforesaid, Confederation of RWAs (CoRWA) demands that every ULB (Urban Local Body) should publish the “Service Level Bench Marks” mandatorily in local newspapers and RWAs should be invited to confirm the reality on ground before the performance grant is released.

(This article was first carried in the compendium published to coincide with the 7th National Conference of RWAs held on November 16-17, 2019, at New Delhi.)

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