Finance Commission advises MMC on revenue recovery

Says grants are sanctioned for use on infra and not for deposit in term deposits

Margao Councilors and officials attending an interaction with the 3rd Goa State Finance Commission in the Municipal Hall on Tuesday.

MARGAO

With overdue revenue arrears exceeding a whopping Rs 30 crore and the civic body having no recovery plan in place to recoup the growing tax arrears, Margao City Council on Tuesday received advice from the 3rd Goa State Finance Commission to recover the arrears as well as to mop up additional revenue.

Unutilized grants amounting to millions of rupees have also slipped under the radar of the Goa State Finance Commission, with the Commission making it clear to the civic body that the grants, both central and state, are sanctioned by local bodies for use on infrastructure and not to deposit the funds in term deposits.

After the Margao City Council made a presentation on the financial situation of the civic body, with arrears exceeding the Rs 30 crore mark, the Chairman of the Commission, Daulat Havaldar, remarked that the current recovery of the MMC accounts for only 30% of total revenue collection. Against this backdrop, Havaldar suggested the civic body focus on recouping rents from municipal properties to mop up revenue.

“The economy is now showing signs of improvement after the two-year COVID-19 pandemic. Rent from municipal properties is a major source of revenue and no civic body can afford to lose that revenue from its own properties,” Havaldar said.

Incidentally, when city staff brought to the attention of Commission members that Central Finance Commission grants had not been used by the civic body since 2000-2002, the total grants

pegged at Rs 40 crore odd, the Commission observed that the grants are given to civic bodies for use and not for deposit in the bank.

Havaldar stressed that grants received by the civic body should be spent on revenue-generating projects so that revenue generated from the projects can supplement income. “We can understand if grants are not used for a year or three, but grants cannot sit in the bank for years without use,” he said.

While the unspent grants from the 14th Finance Commission held by the civic body are tied to about Rs 31 crore, which has been earmarked for setting up garbage treatment plants, the grants from the 15th Finance Commission Finances held by the civic body are tied at around Rs 9.93 crore. Grants for the 2001-02 financial years are set at around Rs eight crore.

The shadow council of Margao Savio Coutinho made it clear to the president of the finance commission Daulat Havaldar that the government must seriously work out a modality of reviewing the rent of the premises belonging to the municipality.

“Tenants and illegally sublet municipal premises are getting rents as low as Rs 25-100, while the actual rent earned by subletting is over Rs 25,000-40,000,” Coutinho said. while suggesting that the outstanding Rs 8.73 crore figure shown by the Council is based on old tariffs. “Imagine the real amount of losses for the public treasury due to the failure of the revision of the rental rates of the premises belonging to the municipality,” Coutinho added.

Margao Councilman Ganashyam Shirodkar drew the Commission’s attention to the injustice done to the city despite Margao being the commercial capital of the state. Stating that Margao’s contribution to the state kitty is around 40% of the total revenue, Ganashyam however lamented that the city is not compensated in terms of development revenue.

Councilor Sadanand Naik highlighted the fact that many areas of the city including Moti Dongor and the Housing Board area are not subject to property tax but added that households also get all the benefits, including free garbage collection.

Councilor Shagun Naik also drew the Commission’s attention to the various discrepancies that deprive the civic body of valuable revenue.

Sallie R. Loera