Hyderabad: Officials from the Anti-Corruption Bureau have gone on record stating that the GHMC is the third most corrupt body in the city after the Transport and Electricity departments.
The ACB’s Hyderabad unit has arrested 24 corrupt GHMC officers since 2011, mainly from Town Planning, Advertisement and Sanitation departments, and seized crores in property, cash, and jewellery from them.
In the most recent incident, the Khairatabad assistant city planner was caught with Rs 10 crore worth of properties. In 2013, though cases were pending on grade-3 Town Planning officers, four of them were promoted. In fact, mere suspension has been the maximum punishment.
A senior officer from the ACB Hyderabad said, “Maximum raids recorded are on Town Planning officers (including city planners, site inspector and grade-3 officers). A majority of them earn money while allocating building permissions (prior to the online system). They were found accepting bribes for issuing building occupancy certificates despite deviations in constructions. Most of the buildings have deviations above 10 per cent. During site inspections, these officers accept money and issue occupancy certificates. The cash is then shared right from the assistant city planner level to site inspectors. Another department that is a cesspool of corruption is Taxation (property tax, commercial tax and trade license). There was also a report in DC regarding a Rs 600 crore scam within the Advertising department.” In August, ACB officials had trapped Khairatabad assistant city planner Santhosh Venu with property valued at Rs 10 crore.
The officer added, “Once an officer is caught, he or she is arrested and sent to remand. They can seek bail within a month and then the trial begins. Most officers seek political help in weakening the evidence, the judgment (punishment) is entirely based on the merits of the case. For the GHMC, the competent authority to decide on the case is the principal secretary of the Municipal Administration and Urban Development department. The maximum conviction period for a corrupt officer is seven years in prison.”
How officials decide on bribe rates
It has been alleged that for every illegal slab, GHMC Town Planning officers charge Rs 50,000. And around Rs 20,000 from this amount goes to local corporators.
Once the planning inspector spots an unauthorised under-construction site, a demolition notice is issued. Following that, a bribe is demanded from the builder.
In fact, it is the Town Planning officers who direct the builders to approach lawyers in case of demolition or seizure notices.
The bribe rates are in fact, fixed according to the type of building (residential and commercial), number of floors on the structure, area of the site and the deviations. The bribe for commercial structures is more; for residential buildings, the rate depends on the deviations.
“A section officer with the GHMC’s Circle 18 was caught red-handed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau while accepting a `2 lakh bribe for giving permission to build a commercial complex in Sitaphal Mandi in Secunderabad,” said a source.
Section officer G. Rakesh had demanded Rs 8 lakh, of which the Rs 2 lakh was the advance. Another section officer, Mir Mehdi Ali, of Circle IV, Town Planning was apprehended recently for accepting Rs 25,000 in bribes.
Corrupt officials have no need to worry
Corrupt officials are let off with minor punishments such as censure or holding back of increment. Or, the charges are dropped on instructions of a minister. A total of 160 staffers have been charged in 110 cases being probed by Vigilance.
August, 2016 — ACB raided assistant city planning officer, Khairatabad, Santhosh Venu, for allegedly possessing illegal assets worth Rs 10 crore.
April, 2016 — ACB officials raided Janardhan Mahesh, a section officer of GHMC, and seized documents of illegal assets. The officer had in his possession property worth Rs 40 crore in Ranga Reddy district.
March, 2016 — ACB raided GHMC Circle 12 (Serilingampally) deputy executive engineer Maloth Peer Singh and found assets worth Rs 7 crore.
June, 2011 — G. Chinna Reddy of Circle 8 was caught while accepting a bribe of Rs 1.5 lakh. A case was booked but the officer continued to work.