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Monday, October 1, 2012

Citizens to conduct social audits of civic work orders

CITIZENS FOR THE CITY


Mumbai: Taking a cue from the rural areas of Rajasthan, where locals monitor the subsidies given to villagers, residents in the western suburbs on Tuesday decided to form social audit local teams (SALTs) to keep a check on various work orders issued by the civic body to maintain quality standards. 
    This will ensure that citizens get better services once a report is submitted by these teams to the concerned authorities to maintain quality standards. SALTs will be formed in every corporator's constituency. 
    Bhaskar Prabhu of the Mahiti Adhikar Manch will conduct a workshop on Tuesday for the H (west) citizens' group in Khar (W) to set up a citizens' SALT. Prabhu said that Section 4 of the Right to Information(RTI) Act gives citizens the right to inspect the work orders issued by the municipal body. 
    "There is a ward working manual, trench repair manual and solid waste management functioning manual, where the schedule of garbage removal for each 
area and the number of vehicles allotted to the ward are mentioned. If the ward gives this manual to local residents, citizens can brush up on these facts and will be able to function as an informed group. It is mandatory for the ward to give such details to local residents. The local citizens from SALT will be trained to get this information," said Prabhu. 
    "There are 700-1,000 work orders released every year in the ward. The work orders for maintenance of gardens, pavements, urinals and repairs to municipal buildings are issued every year. This goes unchecked by citizens. Sometimes, this amount is more than the corporator's funds," said Prabhu. 
    He added that citizens will audit the work orders issued by any public authority. 
    At present, there are third party audits conducted by consultants appointed by the BMC, which isn't a foolproof 
method to ensure that work gets completed as per the work orders issued. 
    "Work orders have full details of how the work is to be done. One can check whether the road excavation is done as per the work order. At least 30% of the civic work can be improved if we form such groups," said Prabhu.
    Citing an example, Prabhu spoke about Dr Ambedkar Road in Dadar (east), where citizens carried out physical verification of municipal work and found that 167 tree guards had not been installed but the civic body had paid the contractor. 
    "The contractor was then penalized. This monitoring will help keep a check on contractors who are doing a shoddy job. This is done in the rural areas of Rajasthan, where locals check the public distribution system and subsidies given to villagers. Ward officials also have an equal and legitimate interest in engaging with civil society and maintaining quality standards in civic work. By forming these teams, we will actually be networking with the authorities and not belittling or chastizing them," said Prabhu.

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