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Friday, 2 January 2015

Mayor’s Rs 20-lakh ‘indiscretion’

It is alleged that she deviated from rules to divert funds to NGO in her constituency

Mayor N Shanthakumari has apparently bent rules by directing the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to release over Rs 20 lakh from her discretionary funds as compensation to a non-profit organisation for vacating a BBMP land which it had occupied on lease.

The mayor's discretionary fund is meant to be utilised for the betterment of the society and taxpayers.

Compensation disallowed:

Karnataka Municipal Corporation (KMC) Act procedure for disposal of land and leasing out properties, rules of which were adapted in 2000, does not allow BBMP to pay compensation towards construction cost on BBMP land.

Mayor’s Rs 20-lakh ‘indiscretion’
Shrishti Academy, which is benefitingfrom the mayor’s decision

However, in this case, Shanthakumari seems to have bent the rules to compensate Shrishti Special Academy, which is situated at 13/1, 6th Cross, 9th 'G' Main, behind BBMP Maternity Hospital, Moodalapalaya - the ward which is represented by Shanthakumari herself.

The academy - a non-profit organisation that educates, trains and develops skills in persons with disabilities, including those with autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and multiple disabilities - has received Rs 20.45 lakh from BBMP for vacating the premises after having constructed a three-storied building on the 1,605 sq ft land, for which the questionable compensation has been paid.

The mayor is now under fire as she is utilising her discretionary fund meant for betterment of society and for taxpayers.

Shrishti Special Academy, with 170 students, was running its centre for the past seven years in the BBMP land, which was leased to them.

Interestingly, Shanthakumari wrote to officials concerned in November this year to ensure that they take over the present building of Shrishti Special Academy to make way for residential quarters for BBMP doctors.

However, she also ensured that BBMP pays back Rs 20.45 lakh to the academy as compensation for spending on the construction of the three-storied building on the land.

In her letter addressed to BBMP's town planning standing committee on November 17, 2014, she says that with the BBMP Maternity Home being adjacent to Academy, the building constructed by the academy could instead be used as quarters for the staff and doctors. But as the academy constructed the building, it could be appropriately compensated. For this purpose, funds from the discretionary fund were utilised.

Rent finalised:

Shanthakumari told Bangalore Mirror that BBMP had finalised Rs 8,700 as monthly rent, which the academy had not paid over the last few years. The lease expired on April 1, 2011. "We wanted the land, and the lease period had also lapsed...So I wrote a letter to the officials to take custody of the said property. (But) It seems that the academy had spent Rs 36 lakh towards constructing the building. I asked our engineers to estimate the cost. After seven years, the estimation has come to around Rs 20 lakh (deducting the unpaid rent amount over the years). I have directed the commissioner to pay it from my fund."

She has claimed that she has not done any wrong by paying Rs 20 lakh from the Mayor's fund. Shanthakumari said, "I decided to pay the money because the academy is running a disabled school so that they can buy land with the same money. Even I have sanctioned a few of the school buildings which will be constructed under Mayor's funds."

BBMP's opposition leader (Congress) B N Manjunath Reddy said the Mayor cannot use discretionary powers and bend rules for any organisation.

Source: Bangalore Mirror, 2nd Jan 2015

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