Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s grandiose plan to plug revenue leakages via the Geographic Information System (GIS) survey may ring in good news and help municipal bodies to enrich their coffers. For, the GIS survey helps unearth the exact figure of households and commercial establishments for assessment of house tax and trade licence.
The GIS survey, however, by itself may not bring in revenue to the cash-starved civic bodies unless it is backed by political will and administrative resolve to take the findings to its logical conclusion. The Margao Municipal Council (MMC), which had roped in an agency to conduct the GIS survey, is a classic case in point of how the report was allowed to gather dust instead of being implemented to tap revenue.
Otherwise, consider this. May 31, 2017. The MMC headed by then Chairperson Babita Angle Prabhudesai resolved to rope in an agency to conduct the GIS survey in a bid to tap the huge revenue potential and plug leakages. Given the huge cost involved in the survey, the civic body resolved to go for it only in Ward No 14, the one which plays host to the heart of the commercial capital, as a pilot project.
A year later, the GIS report was submitted to MMC around March 2018, with the findings, which unravelled the stark reality of what was feared all along – that the civic body lost precious revenue, running into crores of rupees, both from the commercial establishments and individual households through taxes. The survey had estimated the revenue loss to the civic body in the region of Rs 3.16 crore by way of house tax alone as against Rs 40.34 lakh tax collected by MMC that financial year.
City Fathers sounded upbeat about the GIS survey revenue projections when the report was finally placed before the council. They went into celebration mode after realising that the civic body will be enriched by several crores of rupees annually as pointed out by the report, even calling for extending the GIS survey to the entire city.
Sadly, four years down the lane, incumbent Chairperson Damu Shirodkar has complained about commercial establishments operating in the city without mandatory trade licenses. The civic chief fears that more than 40 per cent of the establishments are operating businesses without the trade licence, denying precious revenue to the civic body, bringing to the fore the moot question -- what had prevented the civic body from implementing the GIS survey report, which has predicted huge revenue potential, running to crores of rupees annually?
Inquiries by The Goan revealed that the GIS survey report was never implemented in Margao and was consigned to the dusty records. Leave alone extending the GIS survey to the entire city, even municipal officials seemed to have no idea of the report and why it was not taken to the logical conclusion when it promised to enrich the municipal coffers.
Says a municipal official: “MMC Chairperson Damu Shirodkar has laid focus on revenue generation since taking over three months ago. Implementing the GIS survey report may help bring in rich dividends in terms of revenue.”
The official added: “Shirodkar should first direct the officials to trace the report. If the Chairperson is serious in tapping tax revenue, he should lay his hands on the report and take it to its logical conclusion.”
MMC chairperson, CO promise to uncover fate of 2018 GIS report
Margao Municipal Chief Officer Manuel Barretto as well as Municipal Chairperson Damu Shirodkar has promised to find out from the municipal officials the fate of the GIS survey report prepared for the civic body by an agency in 2018.
When The Goan contacted the Chief Officer and the Chairperson to shed light on the survey report, the duo said they will ask the concerned section to trace the report and place the same for their consideration.
The Chairperson, who had accorded priority to revenue recoveries since he assumed office three months ago, said he would find out from the civic officials the fate of the GIS report. “If the GIS report was submitted by the agency to the civic body, it would help in systematically going about the revenue mobilisation,” Damu said.
The Chairperson has been on record since assuming office that around 40 per cent of the commercial establishments in the city are operating without the mandatory trade license.
How GIS survey could revive MMC revenue if implemented
The GIS survey report, if implemented in both letter and spirit, would have made the Margao Municipal Council richer by crores of rupees by now by way of house tax, trade licence, fees on sign boards et al.
The GIS survey exposed the municipal taxation section as the report had come out with figures exposing the huge gap between the establishments on the ground and those registered with the civic body.
Consider this. The survey report in 2018 had come out with statistics stating that ward no 14, the heart of the commercial capital, plays host to around 5,410 structures as against 4,441 registered with the civic body, indicating a difference of around 1,000 structures. As per the survey, the civic body ought to have earned revenue to the tune of Rs 3.16 crore from these structures by way of house tax, but it netted only Rs 40.30 lakh that year.
Incidentally, the GIS survey had pegged the total number of commercial establishments in ward no 14 to around 2,358 as against 1,617 on the MMC tax books. The survey also exposed the taxation section for not tapping revenue from the signboards, as the report stated that the total number of signboards in ward No 14 was around 3,960 against the 1,401 shown on the record books.
In one instance, the survey report had come out with startling figures when it made a mention of a commercial complex having 156 establishments, but only 15 establishments were found paying the house tax.