For days now, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been protesting at the Corporation office in Thiruvananthapuram, over the misappropriation of revenue collection. On Thursday, October 7, a group of BJP members took the protest to a busy corner of Palayam in the city, alleging that official records of the Corporation do not reflect the payments of building taxes made by citizens. On Friday, K Surendran, the state president for BJP, joined the protests.
The issue began in July, when an official in the Corporationâs Sreekaryam zonal office was reportedly found to have misappropriated funds of more than Rs 5 lakh over five days. Mayor Arya Rajendran had ordered action against the officialâincluding a suspension and police actionâas well as an investigation into the other zonal offices of the Corporation.
âThere are more zonal offices in Thiruvananthapuram than any other city â we have 11. Checks were made on all 11 zonal offices in light of the embezzlement in Sreekaryam. Issues were found in two more zonal officesâmisappropriation of over Rs 26 lakh in Nemom and over Rs 1 lakh in Attipra,â says Corporation secretary Binu Francis.
Cashiers and other officials found responsible for the embezzlement were suspended and a police case registered. However, the BJP is not satisfied with the action taken, and its councillors at the Corporation have been asking for the dismissal and arrest of these officials.
The revenue collections at the zonal offices include various types of payment made by the public, including tax, fines and other remittances. Binu explains that at the end of the day the cashier or a person authorised by the cashier would take the collection to the bank and bring back one half of the receipt with the bankâs seal. The official at Sreekaryam has reportedly faked the receipt for five days while misappropriating an amount of more than Rs 5 lakh. This was reported to the Mayorâs office.
Mayor Arya said recently that it was the Corporation that found out about the misappropriation of funds and took timely action months ago. She said that it was misreported in certain media that the Mayor has now âadmittedâ to the embezzlement when it was the Corporation that had sent out press releases about the matter as soon as it came to light in July.
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The BJP has also been raising the issue of the revenue payments not getting reflected in the online system and this has created some concern among the public. Criticising the Pinarayi Vijayan government over the faulty software, K Surendran asked the IT department to take responsibility.
âThe process of transit to the online system is still in progress,â says Binu. âPeople make some of the payments directly in person, some through the bank, and some through online payments. The manual payments are not getting reflected properly on our online system. However, all of these payments are properly documented in our manual records. Due to COVID-19 and the offices being shut for months, there has been some delay in the transit to the online system,â she further says.
The Corporation has been trying to assure people that all the records of their payments are proper. They have planned house visits for the same. âWithin a month, we will update everything and publish a list with defaulters. Whoever has any objections may raise it and we can sort it out,â Binu adds.