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Officials flout austerity norms

The department might be in the red, but a section of the staff of the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) wants to remain in the pink of health.

Crippled by a severe funds crunch, the CMDA authorities had issued a circular on September 27 to cut down expenses under various heads, including hiring of vehicles. “But till now there has been no significant downsizing in the number of hired vehicles at Salt Lake’s Unnayan Bhavan, the CMDA’s headquarters,” said an official on Saturday. “Before the circular was issued, there were nearly 200 hired cars and around 90 departmental cars doing duty at Unnayan Bhavan. It was decided that 20 per cent of the hired cars would be disposed of but only a few have been reduced,” he added.

According to the circular (65/KMDA/FA/2002, dated September 27, 2002), “The government has decided to economise at different levels”. “Several steps have already been taken at the CMDA to cut down on expenditure as well as to mobilise internal resources. Cutting down on revenue expenditure was the authorities’ concern for some time,” he pointed out.

A 15 per cent-reduction in maintenance of vehicles has been recommended in the circular. It also called for a 20 per cent slash in car hire charges. The circular added that electricity charges should be brought down by 15 per cent.

Chief executive officer of CMDA Prabh Das claimed on Saturday that expenses had been slashed. The number of hired cars, too, has also been brought down as part of the austerity drive, he said.

CMDA sources, however, pointed out that while at least 40 hired cars were to have been taken off, only 15 have been dispensed with. Sources allege that one of the main reasons for the apparent unwillingness to cut down the number of hired cars is the tendency of the officials to use them for personal errands. “Some officials, who are not entitled to a lift from their residence, manipulate the roster to arrange for the ride,” an official claimed.

Sources added that cars owned by the department were not being repaired and the drivers were getting paid for “doing nothing”. “Most of these drivers play cards all day in office,” they said.

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