Senior officials from engineering departments like building and factory, maintenance, water, and environment among others in the BMC may no longer be able to shield or encourage work-shirking attitude of their junior officials when they deny information under RTI.
Taking a strict view of senior civic officials “not performing their roles properly”, the state information commission (SIC) has directed the municipal commissioner that ward officers or assistant municipal commissioners (non-department heads) be appointed as first appellate authorities.
As of now, executive engineers of the concerned departments are the first appellate authorities in the engineering department. Often they are blamed for frustrating an RTI applicant to shield their subordinates.
The directive was given by SIC Ratnakar Gaikwad to an application filed by one Balwant Kirar when his second appeal was heard last month. Balwant had sought details of receipt and expenditure from the unforeseen funds for corporators – Rs 60 lakh a year for all the corporators in R / South ward (Kandivili).
The public information officer (PIO), who was the assistant engineer of the maintenance department, did not provide any information. After first appeal, the executive engineer of the same department, who is also the first appellate authority, directed the PIO to provide the information through inspection on a particular date.
However, the applicant during the hearing complained to the SIC that when he went for the first time, there was no response, while during the second round, little information was given after a long wait.
In his order, Gaikwad stated that the first appellate authorities were “not performing their roles properly” and that they were responsible for “fuelling inaction” by their subordinates. It further asked the municipal commissioner to ensure that assistant commissioners look after the work so that the senior of the same department do not overlook their work.
While Balwant could not be reached, another RTI activist complained of getting a similar treatment from the BMC. “What happens is that even after executive engineer gives an order, most of the times their subordinates do not provide information. It is largely because they do not want to give information about the department,” said Bhaskar Prabhu, an activist who had sought information for social audit.
Speaking to dna, civic chief Sitaram Kunte said, “I have not yet seen the order as yet so will not be able to comment.”