The Jorhat Municipal Board seems to be in the grip of a strange malaise. If the ward commissioner’s, both of the ruling party and the opposition are to be believed the Board has almost become non-functional and corruption prevails.
Things are so bad that the next instalment of the 13-14 finance period due after March 31 may not be released as the utilization certificates of the first period in which about Rs 3crore had been sanctioned and the second period in which about Rs 5 crore had been sanctioned are yet to be submitted.
Ankur Gupta, commissioner of Ward 6 comprising the old Balibat area has in fact sought a probe into alleged corruption and anomalies in the repairing of the Baruanibat road which falls in his area.
In separate letters to the deputy commissioner Jorhat and the director, district administration, Dispur, Gupta has stated that during the tenure of the former JMB Chairman Aruna Dutta the total estimate was Rs 345922.07 but that it was not understood as to why the total cost was increased to Rs 438169.00 and the tender was called on this amount.
The contract was then given to Azad Choudhury, Raja Maidam, New Colony, Ward No 4 during the tenure of Jayanta Borkakoty, the chairman who took over from Dutta.
The letter further stated that after the allotment a new estimate was prepared under a new heading, working estimate for improvement of, Baraunibat, Ward No. 6 and the nature of the work was changed on January 12, 2018 by Jayanta Madhav Dutta, Project Engineer, JMB during the tenure of the present chairman Borkakoty.
In this the length of Baraunibat was changed from 172 M to only 75 M but the cost was increased from Rs 345922.07 to Rs 394181. Gupta said that all this was done without his knowledge as he was out of station.
Moreover, according to the new estimate the thickness was 75 mm 3 inches approximately which Gupta said was not maintained nor the breadth as per the estimate due to which the people complained and stopped work by the said contractor.
Several phone calls and an sms to the project engineer to clarify why this had been done, did not elicit any response.
The Jorhat Municipal Board which has 12 BJP ward commissioners and seven Congress has been hit by infighting with Aruna Dutta allegedly being removed as she did not know much about the functioning or dared to sign any document.
The change has not seemed to have bettered matters with utilization certificates of two phases yet to be submitted and allegations that the incumbent gave the contracts to his “favoured,” men through the town level committee of which he is also the chairman.
The work is usually shoddy or is half done and estimates reworked.
In the last allotment of Rs 7 lakh each to the 19 ward commissioners for work to be done in their respective wards, the tenders were called in November last and work allotted in December but till now work is yet to be started in any of the wards.
“Had the work been completed by March 31 the utilization certificate could have been issued and next instalment sanctioned by the State, but there is little hope now,” a ward commissioner said.
One commissioner said that about Rs 3 crore was outstanding by way of trade license fees. Out of the 12000 license holders, 3000 had only renewed their licenses.
Likewise the collection pending from hoardings in the Municipal areas was about Rs 60lakh, the amount pending from only the AT Road foot bridge being Rs 8 lakh.
Several times advertisements were put up illegally, like the one in front of the chief medical officer’s bungalow now declared a heritage bungalow, and no one knew to whom the money was given or whether it was given at all.
The amount pending in house tax collection is also about Rs 86 lakh. Accountability has gone for a toss. Inertia seems to have also gripped the staff.
A source said that when directed to undertake a work they would seldom do it in time or would go on leave not even bothering about the scoldings.
“Ask for the van which carries the dead and the excuse you will receive is that there is no driver or it needs to be repaired and at night, the headlights don’t work,” he said.