The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's octroi department has held up refunds to the tune of crores of rupees, which it owes various small and large businesses.
Official records reveal there are about 1.2 lakh files pending, some of them since 2011. The refunds amount held up is estimated to be Rs500 crore. About 5,000 fresh claims are received every month, officials say.
In view of this pile-up of cases, the department has decided to increase the number of staff to hasten the process of checking the claims. This will be implemented after April 24, when polling is completed in Mumbai, said Rajiv Jalota, additional municipal commissioner.
"The process got delayed because the office was shifted to Kanjurmarg. Currently, there are just 21 people on the staff for this work. The number will be increased to 46, which we hope will help to clear the pending cases in about nine months," he said.
Businessmen and traders whose claims are pending are livid.
"When goods are brought into Mumbai we pay octroi online. But when we send consignments out, we have to apply for refund and this process has not been put online," said Anant Sharma, who deals in electrical goods. Sharma has refund claims totalling Rs1.09 lakh pending since September 2011.
This is why the refund process takes a long time. "Besides, the BMC deducts 10% of the refund amount, and we have to pay another 5-6% charges to agents for service charges and more," he said.
Consignments coming into the city are charged octroi of 2-7% on the value of the goods.
It seems that the online payment process has still to catch up. "The online system is used mostly by large companies, but medium and small traders still take the help of agents," said an agent.
"It's true that barely 3% of transactions are done online and only 12-15% of the absolute amount is paid online," Jalota said.