Revamp BMC Engineering Department for better governance, says think tank

Calls for abandoning the practice of bureaucrat as engineering head

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Geetanjali Minhas | December 7, 2023 | Mumbai


#Mumbai   #BMC   #urban governance  


Calling for reforms in the Engineering Department of BMC, Mumbai Vikas Samiti, a not-for-profit organisation has said that less than optimum performance of Engineering Function has added to the woes of citizens and deterioration in the quality of life in the metro.

In its recently released report, ‘Suggested Reforms in the Administrative Set Up of the Engineering Function of BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation(BMC)’, the think tank has said effective  Engineering Function leads to attainment if municipal goals but the Engineering Department has been getting less importance since last three decades.

The report says that 1990 onwards, the posts of additional municipal commissioners (IAS cadre) were introduced to help the municipal commissioner in policy and implementation. However, due to their short tenure of three years in BMC, very little of substance has been achieved to help the administration and called for immediate abandonment of the practice.

“They lack in experience unlike in–house officers like DMC and HoD’s …. showing superiority over in-house  HoD’s and DMC spoils working environment. It is obvious that the experiment of having an IAS officer with inadequate hands on experience in engineering areas as Head of Engineering Function has not been successful. The work of BMC engineering departments has suffered with lowering of morale of senior engineering functionaries of BMC,” it says, calling for capable and experienced hands from within the BMC be appointed to function as engineering head.     

The report says that with more than two-thirds of the BMC budget spend by the Engineering Department on the ongoing schemes and new projects, BMC has not been inadequately successful in providing pothole free roads, eliminating water logging, proper garbage disposal  system, a worthwhile parking policy, executing  a good housing policy, augmentation of infrastructure due to corruption by officers often initiated by elected representatives, utilization of in house expertise  having qualified staff.

The report refers to Engineering Departments of City Engineer and Hydraulic Engineer that cover roads and traffic, storm water bridges, slum improvement, solid waste management ,development plan, vigilance, mechanical/ electrical and water supply projects, sewerage, sewerage operation and Mumbai sewerage disposal project respectively.      

Spelling out gaps in the engineering department it says lack of manpower planning has led to 1,500 unfilled posts  of engineering staff  out of total number of 3,500 posts resulting in delayed projects  and key staff getting overworked affecting their productivity. It says insufficient training of engineers and weak training modules, non-cooperation between government agencies and BMC departments, bureaucratic hurdles and interference by state government due to political considerations are other reasons for deteriorating services. The BMC procedure of routing every proposal through accounts section takes its own time and hinders smooth and timely completion on ongoing work resulting in delays, public inconvenience and cost overruns unfairly blamed on engineering HoD’s.     

“Engineering execution is a complex function and requires long hand on experience. IAS officers deputed for up to 3 years cannot be expected to absorb all intricacies and make long term planning. Entire engineering function should be headed by a capable technocrat who should  report  directly   to the municipal commissioner and  all engineering matters of existing operations or new projects must be routed through him,” says the report.

Recommendations

*Mumbai Vikas Samiti recommends revamp of internal training establishment, CTIRC (central training institute and research centre) to continuously train executive engineers and below. Chief Engineers and Deputy Chief Engineers internal training should be supplemented by external training at  IIT’s  IIM’s, Administrative Staff College etc.

*Enhance financial powers of engineering heads to Rs 1 crore and  Rs 30 lakh for HoD’s. For new, urgent, unforeseen work these limits should be Rs 10 lakh and Rs 3 lakh, respectively. In addition automatically increase these limits by 3%-5% annually with a review/ reset every 5 years.
 
*For smooth working and reduction in bureaucratic hurdles, do away with prior sanction from accounts department but have a post event check by accounts department and auditors.

*Minimise interference by councillors in working of engineering staff who should only contact    designated engineering officer.

*Accord a proper career plan for around 10,000 employees of all engineering functions job enhancement opportunities and have a scientific appraisal management for engineering staff.  

*BMC’s existing, experienced staff should be preferred over engaging external consultants who should be only considered where BMC lacks technical competence. BMC should recruit engineering management trainees with outstanding capabilities giving them responsibilities and exposure in municipal system.  

*The DMC’s are experienced hands and backbone for getting good results. They should be the last authority for project execution in engineering function.         

*State government should institute a tough test for Special Municipal Engineer open to all municipal engineers with 5 years’ experience across municipalities.   

*The recommendations also call for  publishing review of Development Plan every 5 years which should include quality of work completed,  list of incomplete work, reasons  there off,  fixing of responsibility and remedial action for achieving  DP objectives. Vigilance department should provide suggestions for improvements on continuous basis and not limit itself to scrutiny.

*Project planning and control department should reorganise on modern lines for quality and prompt execution.

*Have a periodic review  of important projects by the MC and also appoint an engineering review committee consisting of retired MC, management expert from IIM or administrative staff college , IIT  professor, etc, etc,.  

*Have a single point of governance for efficiency.

*Do away with bureaucratic delays due to uncalled for and unproductive procedures.  
 

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