We need to confront the reality that Bengaluru’s infrastructure and our quality of life will not see an improvement unless two conditions are met : More money is raised for spending on public infrastructure and the outcome is tangible.
The first condition requires civic agencies, especially the BBMP, to increase their revenue base.
This in turn requires the state government to devolve more meaningful and buoyant revenue streams to the BBMP, giving it access to entertainment and profession taxes, a greater share of stamp duties, registration charges and of road tax. Giving it a fixed percentage of GST generated from Bengaluru would not be unreasonable either.
After all, the BBMP has the greatest share of spends and among the lowest share of funds. Its time it was allowed to earn a sliver of the city’s economic growth as it bears the maximum load to fuel it. The agency, for its part, needs to do better in both assessing and collecting revenue that is already due to it. A greater emphasis on better assessment and outsourcing collections could significantly improve its revenue generation.
It can achieve best results by implementing the Karnataka Municipal Accounting and Budgeting Rules (KMABR) 2006. Already applicable to all municipal bodies in Karnataka except the BBMP, the rules require annual accounts to be audited by July 31 each year, publication of an Annual Performance Report and City Management Report by September 30 each year and citizen consultation in the annual budgeting process. This could be the reform that breaks the jinx at the BBMP and recasts it as a well governed institution.
Srikanth Viswanathan is Coordinator-Advocacy at Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy and a Chartered Accountant.