Water Supply System
ULBs in the KMA have well developed water distribution systems. However, pressure and volumes available particularly in poor settlements are low due to demand having outstripped supply, leaks from old pipes and poor connections and iron encrustation. Due to an improper complaint redressal system these issues get unresolved unless noticed by the Municipality representatives.
Only 25% of the ULBs have any form of piped sewerage. The rest use on-site or communal sanitation facilities, which are generally inadequate. In the absence of collector sewers, house connections and poor operations and maintenance, large investments in sewage treatment are operating inefficiently. Rehabilitation of these systems requires proper planning and efficient management which is currently not present in the ULB agendas.
Solid Waste Management System
Solid Waste Management System (SWM) practices are poor with solid waste being the main cause behind water logging and choked drains. KUSP will focus on community environmental awareness and on creating partnerships between SWM operators, CBOS and the municipalities. In addition to reducing environmental health hazards, this will also lead to enterprise options being developed for groups such as rag-pickers and the recycling industry. The option of inter-municipal co-operation for identifying and subsequently managing landfills will be explored.
Property Tax System
The state’s fiscal status has been worsening and there is limited potential for large increases in this support in the future. The rate of growth of the property tax, the most important source of own revenues for the ULBs, has been growing at a sluggish rate of only 1.3% per annum in the last ten years.Though the collection rate varies from 30% to 90% across the ULBs, the average collection efficiency is around 40%. The MAD and the ULBs recognize the financial sustainability of the ULBs as an important issue and the need for ULBs to raise their own resources (taxes, user charges). Organization reforms also have implications for reduction in costs and financial sustainability of the ULBs.
Urban Planning Issues
The city is environmentally degraded, experiencing contaminated water, poor sanitation and waste disposal problems, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and the loss of open spaces and natural resources. The close interface between residential and industrial activities adds to the problems. This has severely affected quality of life for residents, particularly the poor, and the attractiveness of the business environment. There is a need for a better understanding by the authorities and the general public of the risks posed by a degraded environment and the importance of better environmental management.
This situation has emerged through a complex of inadequate urban planning, land-use management and development control, overlapping institutional responsibility and lack of accountability. Environmental management capacity of ULBs and awareness of their environmental obligations under the WB Municipal Act 1993 are weak. Even simple zoning plans that could abate environmental impacts are not implemented and industrial pollution controls are preferred.
There is no formal system of management in case of Municipal assets. Municipal Assets include all the fixed assets owned by the ULB like ULB Owned buildings, Auditoriums, Electrical infrastructure with the ULOB offices, IT infrastructure within the ULB offices, ULB owned schools, and so on. As a result periodic valuation of these assets is rarely done. Even if it is done then value of depreciation is not taken into consideration. As a result the current position of Municipal assets is not known. There is no formal system for preventive and curative maintenance of these assets, Maintenance is generally done on a need basis, which makes it further difficult to estimate the expenditure required for such maintenance. Records of revenue collected by leasing some of the assets are also not maintained properly. Even while constructing any new asset no consideration is given to location suitability. This generally happens as there is no formal planning mechanism in place. Usage status of these assets is also not maintained.
With the introduction of Double Entry Accounting system, ULBs have started evaluating their own Municipal Assets. This system also takes care of the depreciation value. Since this is a new system, only few ULBs have started following it, there are many other ULBs who are still in the nascent stage of implementing it. This system further needs to be formalized across all the 40 ULBs. A proper guideline as to how Municipal assets should be valuated needs to be given.
The present status of the all the 40 ULBs is financially unsustainable, although there is a large variation in the financial performance of the individual ULBs within the KMA. The revenue deficit of the ULBs has been increasing over the years, with revenue receipts growth rate of 3.5% p.a. and revenue expenses growth rate of 5.3% p.a.Significant increases in recurrent expenditures of ULBs has meant that the ULBs are using a part of the capital receipts (Plan Grant) for recurring expenditures and thus squeezing out capital expenditure meant for the new investments and provision of new services. The entire capital receipts and 61% of the revenue receipts are provided by the Government (Central and State) and other state government agencies (KMDA etc.)
Discrepancy between Policy Makers and Policy Implementers
A clear and precise knowledge of what one is supposed to achieve as a health inspector, sweeper, city engineer or town planner is a very crucial step in creating a natural mechanism of accountability and transparency. However, the existing Municipal system does not have any role clarity for any employees. Every employee either ends up with more tasks than what he/she is assigned or with no task at all.
A confused system of accountability and job description at the administrative level leaves the political wing free to make choices that can vary temporally and spatially, about the kind of support to be elicited from the electorate for any administrative initiative. There is no possibility of an effective partnership between the administrative and political wings. The Commissioner and the Mayor need to understand that they must each work in their respective areas of expertise and influence, but to a single, systematic plan of governance. So that it gives the elected representatives a very clear role as an intermediary between the administration and the citizens.
Resistance to Change
There is still a lot of resistance towards e-Governance. Introduction of new Accounting system as well as new technology has built fear in the minds of the Municipal Staff. The main reason for this fear is manifold
Notwithstanding these legislative achievements, the performance of ULBs in KMA and other urban organizations (under GoWB) suffers from several institutional weaknesses, which constrain realization of government’s economic and urban policies. First, the limited revenue base of the ULBs has made them heavily dependent on a state government, which is also financially weak. They have no resources of their own to undertake capital works and have inadequate funds to maintain existing municipal assets and services. Next, planning, general and financial management capacities are weak across the board and few ULBs make effective use of new technologies. Many ULBs are overstaffed (particularly at the lower levels) and, unlike their rural counterparts (Panchayats), their staff lacks a pro-poor work orientation.
Whilst corruption is considered to be less prevalent than in other states, it exists in several forms, particularly in the area of tax administration. This coupled with poor accountability mechanisms and ineffective grievance redressal systems has led to poor tax collection, inadequate and inequitable provision of services and low staff morale.
The KMA has experienced declining organized sector industry and employment, with increased share of the informal sector. Workers in the informal sector usually get low wages under casual contracts; the self-employed operate on the fringes of legitimacy facing high risk and harassment, with the scale of their businesses making costs higher and margins lower. These groups face uncertainty at the work front and most probably similar uncertainty with respect to their living quarters as well.
Grievance Redressal System
Currently none of the ULBs have a formal Grievance Redressal System in place. All the complaints that come in are verbal either through telephone or through Municipal staff. Compliant registers though maintained are not completely used to redress complaints. Moreover, every department handles its complaints individually. As a result citizens have to spend a lot of time in registering the complaint with the right department. Due to improper flow of information the resolution time becomes high. There is no way that citizens can keep a status track of their complaints. They do not even receive any acknowledgement when their complaints get resolved. A formal Grievance Redressal System therefore needs to be in place in all the ULBS.
An efficient and transparent Governance system will still fail, if the citizens who avail this system are not aware of how to avail it. The system will still fail if there is no co-operation from the citizens. Currently no awareness programs are being carried for orienting the citizens towards e-Governance. Many citizens specifically in the informal settlements are not aware about the services that the ULBs offer, and how to avail them. As a result they remain unattended most of the times.