The Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC) has two completely different yardsticks when it comes to recovering taxes and sues from the common man and influential out-of-home (OOH) advertising agencies who have been awarded rights to install hoardings at earmarked sites across the twin-city.
In a shocking revelation, MBMC’s advertising department has not only turned a blind eye towards multi crore arrears saddled on the civic body by defaulting advertising agencies but has virtually rolled out a red carpet for them by granting illegal extensions sans mandated price escalations.
While the arrears were pegged at a few lakhs in 2015, the amount has now runs into Rs 39.20 crore. As against the demand of Rs. 38.59 crore, the MBMC has managed to recover around Rs. 56 lakh in the current fiscal.
“Technical issues in context to demands raised have led to hurdles in recovery. However, it is true that the recovery has been very low. Notices have been issued to defaulters and recovery proceedings will be initiated soon.” said deputy civic chief- Sambhajji Waghmare.
The advertising department is already under the scanner for ignoring audit objections for non-submission of yearly records related to arrears and list of defaulting agencies.
While the MBMC is empowered to take possession of the hoarding’s and initiate recovery proceedings in accordance with the law, the agency owners claim that the fees have been calculated in an arbitrary manner leading to astronomical dues.
“When it comes to recovery from the rich, the MBMC becomes spineless. Based on my repeated follow ups they recovered the arrears of an agency last year.” said social activist- Krishna Gupta.
It has been alleged that civic officials are hand-in-glove with the agencies, allowing them to compromise on safety parameters and facilitate manipulations, thus causing huge revenue losses to the civic exchequer.
Though it is mandatory to provide the necessary information in a specific time frame, the majority of cases in the advertising department has remained unattended and continues to appear on the list of audit objections for years.