State Information Commission orders civic body to furnish information to RTI petition
The money that the Coimbatore Corporation had spent on maintaining heavy vehicles is back in news, thanks to a State Information Commission order to the civic body.
The Commission, on July 2, 2021, issued the order based on an appeal preferred by activist S.P. Thiyagarajan, who had sought from the Corporation the bills for the ₹ 53.96 crore it had spent between 2014-15 and 2017-18 on maintaining heavy vehicles.
The Commission directed the Corporation to reply by furnishing bill copies to Mr. Thiyagarajan before July 21 and asked the latter to report to it if the civic body failed to do so. As of July 20, the activist said he had not heard from the Corporation.
The information battle between the activist and the Corporation began on January 1, 2020 when he had under the Right to Information Act sought from the Assistant Commissioner-Accounts (ACA) the bill copies for the money spent in those four years.
The ACA forwarded the RTI query to the assistant commissioners of the five zones saying he could not furnish the information as it was the zonal offices that maintained the accounts related to heavy vehicle maintenance. Of the five, three responded by providing the money spent and not the bill copies.
The assistant commissioners of Central and West zones did not respond. This forced Mr. Thiyagarajan to file an appeal with the first appellate officer/Deputy Commissioner, who, after furnishing only the money spent in the two zones, said it was impossible to share the bill copies.
The reason the Deputy Commissioner cited was that the volume of information was heavy, the collection of such information would hamper the day-to-day work and the demand for bill copies was aimed at disrupting the routine functions.
This forced the activist-petitioner to move the Commission, the second appellate authority under the RTI Act. In his appeal of September 4, 2020, Mr. Thiyagarajan sought a direction to the Corporation to furnish the bill copies and levy penalty to the officers concerned for not sharing bill copies, furnishing wrong details, and attempting to prevaricate.
He said it was unfortunate that the Commission, after a delay of 10 months, had only asked the Corporation to furnish bill copies and not punished the errant officers.
Smart fleet management
The Commission’s direction to the Corporation comes at a time when the latter is looking at trimming expenditure. Sources engaged in the cost-cutting exercise said the money the civic body spent on fuel on heavy commercial vehicles and light commercial vehicles worked out to ₹ 25 crore a year.
This was as per the 2018-19 financial statement. In the two years, the expenditure should have increased by 5% to 10%. The Corporation was thoroughly studying the vehicle movement, looking at GPS data of vehicles fitted with the devices and planning to fit GPS on vehicles without those.
The Corporation was also thinking of improving the efficiency and utility of those vehicles. This was a comprehensive exercise, given the fact that the civic body need to cut cost and that too immediately as the financial position was fragile, the sources added.
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