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Towards more professionalism in governance

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While the number of persons paying online may have doubled this year - from 32,000 to 71,000 - many more may have logged on, and then logged off in frustration. Property owners in several parts of the city were in for a shock, when the computer refused to accept their payment, saying they had not paid the previous year’s tax. “We have bonafide receipts of taxes paid last year. How can the system say we have not paid? Isn’t it ridiculous that we now have to go to the BBMP office? What’s the point making it online if the taxpayer has to trek to the centre?” asked Sumithra Raghavan. The reasons are not too far to seek. The ground staff at work have not updated their previous tax data in the database. Helpless, these taxpayers returned to the queue at the BBMP help centres. Some others could not take printouts of their tax paid receipts.

BBMP officials also admit to the folly. “Yes, it’s unfortunate that we have had many such complaints this time, mainly from the newly-added areas. Data updation for 2009-10 and 2010-11 is still in progress and will take another 15 days to complete. But thereafter, there should be no problems for people to switch to the online mode,’’ BBMP deputy commissioner (revenue) I Ramakant told TOI.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.
As per the report, only Rs 37.52 cr, out of the Rs 520.36 cr received so far, was paid online, accounting for a miniscule 7.2% for supposedly tech savvy Benagaluru. This includes my contribution too.

As a blogger from the time blogging started, I have generally managed to keep myself abreast of the tech upgrades, though, in my late middle age ( I am trying to avoid the word 'old'), it's not been as easy, as say for my son. But, I have generally been making all mine and my immediate family's travel bookings, whether by air, rail or bus; banking operations; insurance policy renewals; credit card payments; etc, all from home, through the net, saving me a considerable amount of time, effort, and travel. I have generally found the sites user friendly, and once you have navigated through the process the first time, it becomes kind of child's play thereafter.

BBMP is about the exception. If I have managed to make online payment of my property taxes over the years, it required my "cracking" of the process each time, through painstaking effort, apart from some bit of luck.

The difference plainly is one of professionalism in the approach. It's like when a person wants to build his house. Now, any body can build it all on his own, and in the process, save himself the 5% odd fee that the architect may charge, though, at the end of it all, he may land up paying 20% more than what he would have, if he had engaged an architect. This is apart from the question of liveability of the house.

BBMP's approach is very much like the person who believes in doing it all by himself, even in today's world, which has become a lot more professionalised, quite in tune with the day's demands. Their team consists largely of just one professional, and the rest all part timers, if I understood it correctly. When some of us met him, quite like the person who has chosen to build his house himself, this professional too was eloquent about how, if the job had been outsourced to say a TCS, it would have cost the BBMP some tens of crores, as compared to the few lakhs he and his team is presently costing the BBMP. The point he misses is that, if indeed a TCS had been engaged, they would have brought in a lot more value additions to the whole exercise, making for a far more dynamic and buoyant tax collection mechanism. This is apart from the huge savings in manhours for the BBMP corresponding to the staff deployed in the physical collection exercise, assuming that they have something more productive to do, which of couse is a big question mark.

It all again boils down to professionalisation through outsourcing, simultaneous down-sizing, payment of better than market salaries for the remaining staff, and making all of them more accountable. Readers of this blog may want to read this also.

Muralidhar Rao


murali772's picture

how not to do it

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Here is an example of how not to go about it.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

and, what is possible

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A prominent citizen (MK) posted the following excerpts from an article on Mr Ashank Desai (of MASTEK) along-with the comment "Why can't we get him here?" on the save-koramangala y-group:

The latest feather in Desai's cap is a huge project to decongest the swirling traffic on theLondon roads. And this project promises to make all the difference to an average day's traffic in London.

The project restricts movement of vehicles in the city centre by charging a hefty toll. The result: Traffic is now reduced by 10-15%, queues reduced by up to 20-30% and traffic speeds increased by over 10-15%. All these thanks to a software that comes from Desai's firm.

"The London congestion charging project is one of our biggest projects. It feels good to have made a difference to the lives of so many people," Desai says matter-of-factly.

I responded with:

If the government wants to, there are plenty of ways of figuring out solutions, and many of them for free. The problem obviously is that the government only wants to put on a show of solving problems; but clearly, they don't want solutions, because of the well-entrenched vested interests.

MK came back with:

Professionalism is much spoken and used word. Whether it comes free or not I hesitate to comment.

To which, I responded as below:

I fully endorse your view that no services should be free, or even under-priced (and, of course, not over-priced), like perhaps in the quarter-baked 'project management' package sold to BBMP (like the one cited above), which from day 1 itself is a dead asset. And, there are so many such dead assets with our government departments/ agencies.

While Ashank Desai's MASTEK may have an interesting personal story angle to it, all our TCS's, INFOSYS's, WIPRO's, etc are also doing similar things for government departments/ agencies in even the most advanced countries. Unfortunately, however, namma Karnataka government departments/ agencies are refusing to engage them, since it will then mean a paradigm shift in the entire work culture (you can't have situations like not having held internal audit since '64), the prospect of which is making them insecure. The price the city/ state lands up paying as a consequence is huge in terms of inefficiency, loss of revenue, and ultimately the quality of life of the citizen.

The silver lining here is that atleast the central government is now beginning to do it - as in the case of outsourcing by the Passport office of all of its back-end work to TCS.

Now, the debates and discussions over Praja themselves have generated a whole lot of ideas for solutions to all kinds of problems facing the city as well as the state, and if there was even the slightest of backing from the governmental departments/ agencies concerned, we could have evolved, nurtured and even incubated many of them to a stage from where they could be outsourced to professional agencies for full scale implementation. In fact, if a MASTEK were to be invited to adapt and implement their solutions for Bangalore, their job will become a lot more easy if they choose PRAJA for crowd-sourcing of feedbacks from the members, many of whom are doing similar things themselves already. As such, if we can get our state to emulate the Central govrnment's example of outsourcing (as in the case of the Passport back-end work), Bangalore can easily become the trend-setter for evolution and implementation of all kinds of solutions for all kinds of problems, in view of the large cache of tech resources readily available on PRAJA. This is not just an empty boast. I am fairly confident of it.

Muralidhar Rao
idontspam's picture

The state knowledge

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The state knowledge comissions fellowship or some such information circulated a while back was interesting & a way out. I cant find it on Praja, was it on email then? GoK was inviting young professionals to participate in governance. They will be deputed to work on projects for 6 months to a year with a stipend. Can somebody share that link if they find it?

sanjayv's picture

The Jnana fellowship

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IDS - see the link here about that fellowship.

murali772's picture

worthless gol-mals

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"We were a group of retired government officials who set up Search India (a registered body to carry out surveys on behalf of the Election Commission) in 2002. We were not experts in conducting surveys. When the project was handed to us, there were 14-15 people working for the organization. The project was relatively bigger and we had to employ people for it. But the amount funded by the EC was meagre in comparison to the project size," says Nagaraja Rao, director general, Search India.

According to Nagaraja, the organization is on the verge of being shut down. "More than 50% of our people are either disabled or have passed away. The project was supervised by Alfred Samuel, who passed away.. The company doesn't have staff for field work," Nagaraja told TOI. He added that he was not satisfied with the report.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

Though this refers to last year, before the current CEO, Mr Jha, took charge, there is no guarantee that this will not happen again under the next CEO.

The entire approach of a whole lot of government johnnies appears to be to invent some work, whether beneficial to the organisation or not, and palm them off to some favoured people, either to curry their favour in return, or to collect kick-backs - all at tax-payers' cost. If genuine surveys/ studies are required, a proper search will throw up names of enough and more organisations with good credentials, who besides you can readily hold accountable, as compared to say a JPC (joint parliamentary committee) that you'll have to have for 'gol-mals' of the above kind.

The sad part of such 'worthless gol-mals' (compared to what the Pawan Bansals of this world are upto) besides is that the likes of Mr Nagaraja Rao will not only not get anything worthwhile for the effort put in, but may even land up paying heavily out of his own pocket.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

inept tax collection mechanism

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Besides, its self-assessment scheme has been misused by many property owners. Any building over 3,000 sq ft area has to be cross-checked by the civic agency during property tax payment to confirm if the extent of tax paid is as per the measurement. There is nexus between property owners and BBMP officials. There are a number of instances where taxpayers pay commercial charges to Bescom and then pay residential tax slabs to BBMP for the same property.

For the full report on the interview of the soon retiring Sri Siddiah (incumbent BBMP Commissioner), cleck here.

In my opening comment on this blog, I had mentioned "if indeed a TCS had been engaged, they would have brought in a lot more value additions to the whole exercise, making for a far more dynamic and buoyant tax collection mechanism". In lieu of this, Mr Siddiah has had to hark back to the ways of the Maharaja's tax collectors, ie beating of drums in front of the alleged defaulters' premises. Strangely, even reputed and cash rich organisations like Wipro came in for this treatment, which must have been plainly on account of the ineptness of the BBMP's systems.

Very plainly, BBMP's property tax processing and collection system is another candidate awaiting immediate outsourcing to professional organisations. Of course, that would be just the beginning.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

BBMP shaming the city

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Criticising the BBMP for its ‘naming and shaming’ drive to collect property tax from Wipro, the High Court on Thursday chided the Palike for its laxity in responding to objections.

Justice H G Ramesh said, “In the 21st century, you (BBMP) behave in an uncivilised manner by beating drums in front of their office. However when it comes to your response to their objections, you hardly file anything and seek more time to respond.” He further observed, “They (Wipro) are asking for breakups of tax figures and are ready to sign a cheque for the tax dues at your office. But you (BBMP) are unable to properly argue the matter and only respond with a few lines as your response. And you want `16.47 crore from them.”

The Court made the scathing statements after the BBMP’s counsel sought two weeks time to respond on the grounds that the Palike was holding a meeting on the matter. The Court extended the earlier stay order granted till December 10. The BBMP had earlier threatened legal action against Wipro, claiming it owed `16.47 crore in property tax dues. It had issued notices to the company warning of seizure of its properties for tax evasion. Soon after this, Wipro filed a petition claiming it had been defamed by the BBMP’s drum beating campaign in front of its offices over tax evasion charges and sought breakups of tax figures.

For the full report in the New Indian Express, click here.

These ways of BBMP not only cause to bring shame on itself, but on the entire city, which is otherwise known for its IT and general skilled-work prowess. Very clearly government organisations do not have the capacity (and cannot build it either), to undertake these tasks by themselves, for all the dubious awards they manage to collect for themselves (check here). It's time these tasks are outsourced to professional players, like I had mentioned in my opening post.

At the B-PAC function on the 6th (reported here in the ToI), the Mayor finally remarked that the BBMP was considering outsourcing of issuance of fresh property Id's. I wanted to ask how that alone was going to help, but didn't get an opportunity.

Very plainly the mafia's that operate within the BBMP are not going to allow professionalisation easily, since that would undermine their vested interests. And, the elected representatives are either part of the mafia or don't have the capacity to understand the goings on. Whatever, the Aam Aadmi in Delhi has shown us the way, and it's time we in Bengaluru too demanded that the BBMP shapes up, or we'll have to just ship them out.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

a relevant exchange

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An exchange on the subject on a google-group:

DV: It is true that Wipro is evading tax. Mallya owes 10 Cr as property tax, even after devaluing UBCity ... looks like BBMP lost the chance to beat drums there!

Me: The question very simply is why is it that the BBMP isn't locking up these premises if the owners actually owe that kind of money.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

WIPRO silent

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The exchange with DV (incidentally, a journalist) on "OneBengaluruGoogleGroup" went beyond, as recorded below:

DV: Wipro is in court - there's a stay. All big guns bring a stay, and it goes on for years and years!

Me: Courts don't grant a stay unless a prima facie case is made out

DV: Not necessarily... we know how the judiciary works :-) They can bring an interim stay on request and drag the case on and on. There is corruption everywhere - in judiciary too - we just don't talk about it in open.

Me: I know there's corruption in the judiciary; but it's still a lot better than many other institutions. Now, if you go on the assumption that "there's corruption everywhere", then there's no point in coming onto platforms like "OneBengaluru", which is essentially for figuring out solutions to existing problems, and not for market gossip. For instance, do you have facts and figures about what Wipro owes the BBMP, or even Mallya?

Now, Wipro has a fairly clean image, and that's how they have even dared to take BBMP to court for defamation. And, the fact remains that BBMP couldn't substantiate their claims in the court even after sufficient notice had been given. It is essentially these inept ways of the BBMP that has to change, and our job should be to damand that. Their ways are allowing many others get away not paying taxes. They take on Wipro because Wipro generally refuses to pay bribes.

DV: Well. The problem is, when we ask, none from Wipro is ready to speak about their version. If you know anyone who might speak regarding this, please give us the contact, as otherwise our story will be one-sided. Coincidentally I was working on a story on property tax when this mail came in, and had spoken to BBMP, but Wipro PR hasn't responded to our queries. I don't know any other insider who can speak, contacts will help.

Me: Yes, you have a point there. Not many corporates like to be totally transparent - obviously they too have a few things to hide. But, most of it comes out of government's own doings. For instance, if this property tax collection is professionalised, no Wipro or Mallya, or for that matter any of the big mafioso, can get away avoiding/ delaying paying taxes - that's all there's to it. But, the mafioso within the BBMP is desperate to protect its vested interests, and that's why it's not happening.

I know a senior official in Wipro. Let me see if I can get him to connect me to the right person handling the issue. I'll revert.

Subsequently, I spoke to this fairly senior person that I know in Wipro, and thereafter mailed the Head of Corporate Communications (whose mail id was furnished to me by the senior person), asking for their version of the story. There has been total silence inspite of repeat reminders.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Professionalisation of a different kind

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Senior officials who ran the Administrative Training Institute (ATI) here could soon face criminal investigation on charges of large-scale corruption. - - - - Referring to digitisation of the District Disaster Management Plans by Wizards Technologies, Rashmi says the agency was chosen arbitrarily. She suspects “nepotism and extraneous considerations” prompted the choice. “This is not a procedural error, but an informed decision taken by Amita Prasad to favour a single private organisation by channeling public funds under any and every pretext. The role of R Manoj, IFS, also needs to be probed,” she has said.
For the full text of the report in the New Indian Express, click here.
Likewise, I expect, is the case with BBMP's professionalisation effort.
30th April was originally notified as the last date for payment of property taxes for eligibility for 5% discount. From about the first week of April, I made a number of attempts, but each of the times, while the Form 4 updation pertaining to the current year happened automatically (with my having been paying through the net mode ever since the system was set up), and with a few clicks, reached the stage of 'record saved successfully', beyond that, it was a no go.  At this stage, I checked with a friend, and he told me that he too had faced similar problems, but after a number of attempts, had eventually "cracked" the process. Envigorated, I too sat down with renewed determination, and over some 25 attempts spread through 3 days, eventually secured my "Eureka" moment. 
Not even cracking IRCTC site, which I have managed a few times, has given me such joy. Forget redbus, makemytrip, bookmyshow, etc, negotiating through which are plain childs-play, and consequently, don't give you that high as when you crack the property tax process. 
This time around, I noticed that there was a EffiaTech ( ) in the picture. In my opening post, I had suggested that such jobs are best outsourced to professional organisations like TCS. So, apparently, they had taken my suggestion. But, instead of engaging a professional set up, they have engaged this EffiaTech, which from a scrutiny of its website, appears to be an offshoot of some real estate johnny. The intention obviously is "professionalisation" of a different kind. It would be interesting to check on the selection process through RTI. 
Meanwhile, I expect, tax collection through the net is going to take a dip. Anybody bothered? Essentially, the word "government" has become synonimous with racketeering.
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

outsourcing to professional agencies clearly the way forward

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Councillors cutting across party lines on Thursday opposed the idea of outsourcing tax collection to private agencies. A proposal to hire expert tax valuators was tabled for approval before the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike council. As per the proposal, tax valuators will verify a property’s built-up area and the amount to be paid. This will prevent misuse of the self-assessment scheme and up to 20 per cent of the tax collected after assessment will be paid to the valuators, the proposal said. - - - Chamarajpet councillor B K Ganesh said two major duties of the civic body are keeping the city clean and collecting property taxes. “We have outsourced cleaning works. If we outsource tax collection as well, why do we need BBMP employees?”
Following the negative response from council members, BBMP Commissioner M Lakshminarayana said tax valuators would not collect money and would just assess property. “They will assess properties that are more than 50x80 feet. This will not be a burden to the BBMP. Recently, we paid `75 lakh to a private firm to assess an IT company. If we had a company on hire, we would not have had to pay so much.” However, the councillors were not moved and the proposal was dropped.
For the full text of the report in the New Indian Express, click here
Quite as the Commissioner has pointed out, if the services of a professional company were to be hired, they will help plug all the loop-holes, make the processing easier for the tax payers, and the collection would multiply. Simultaneously, if the staff made redundant by the exercise, were given the golden hand-shake, the overall benefit will be even higher.
The answer, to the point raised by Chamarajpet councillor B K Ganesh, needs to be stated very clearly that indeed BBMP doesn't need to be employing as many people as it is currently doing. Outsourcing to professional agencies is very clearly the way forward - not just for BBMP; but for the entire government (check the debate here too). 
Here, however, only a half-hearted attempt appears to have been made by the Commissioner. 
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

exasperating - BBMP's net property tax payment experience

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From 1st April, when BBMP's property tax collection was set in motion, I had been mentally girdling myself up to undertake the task of making the payment on the net, the past experiences having been not too happy, to say the least. Meanwhile, yesterday, there was the following exchange between members of a "whatApp" group (of which I am a member), on the subject:
F1: Has anyone succeeded in paying property tax using the "time saving" online portal? I came tantalizingly close once this morning after over a dozen attempts but fell inches short of the finish line.
Me: I have been gathering courage from the beginning of the month to attempt it. It took me about ten attempts to crack it the last time. Will give it a shot today.
F2: I am going to bite the bullet this week. I'll try some unearthly hour and hope they don't switch off the server with the lights and fans when they go home.
F1: Finally task accomplished! Am giving myself the rest of the afternoon off to celebrate. The key to cracking this is to face East, stand on one leg, and chant Lakshminrayana 1008 times.
F3: I take the easy way out and send my driver to the tax counter, pay the guy there Rs 100/- to fill the forms, and the job is done. 
All of it didn't help in the least to buttress my resolve to take up the task. All the same, since the last date was approaching fast, I said a quick prayer and got onto the site. Actually, mine is very straight-forward case, there being no changes whatsoever from the previous year. But, when I tried entering my new PID, it refused to open, even after repeat attempts. This was of course on top of the site just hanging, at various stages of my attempts, with all kinds of vague messages coming on as if to explain the hanging. Experience over the years told me not to give up so easily. I then tried the old PID, and voila, the form opened out, with everything filled out, and, since there were no changes to be incorporated, I scrolled straight down to make the payment. 
But, here arose the fresh problem, which was not there last year (or before that). Payments could be effected through Credit/ debit cards of only IDBI, Corporation Bank, and IndusInd Bank, and net-banking option was available only through ICICI, IndusInd, Axis, and HDFC banks. As such, if you didn't have one of these tie-ups, there didn't seem to be any way of making the payment. Now, since I bank with Corporation bank, I thought I was in luck, and went ahead to make the payment. But, even with repeat attempts, all I kept getting was the message "please wait", and the site going dead thereafter.
Now, alongside InduInd bank's name, there appeared a link supposedly to some 33 other banks. But, clicking on the same took you to list of the names of the banks, but with no obvious indications as to what to do with the list. Perhaps, if you read the verbose fine print, that's there all over the forms as well as the site, perhaps the directions are there somewhere. But, finding that will call for a level of patience few human beings are generally capable of. Is it any surprise then that my friend, F3, chooses the easy way out? 
And, the BBMP has the gall to term it "time saving". In fact, I am inclined to believe that it's deliberately retained this way so that a majority of the people, busy as there with their everyday life's activities (like my friend, F3), will choose the easier way out, this in turn fattening the pockets of the neta-babu combo. The same people, when it comes to booking tickets for a movie/ show, bus/ rail/ air/ taxi travel, will today be doing it all on the net, and with finesse, the difference plainly being the user-friendliness, which term is apparently unknown to BBMP.
And, to add insult to the injury, today I get a message from BX-BBMPAD reading " Dear Bengalurians - Kindly avail 5% rebate on Property Tax for 2015-16 by paying before 30th April, 2015. It can be paid online using credit or debit cards."
Finally, this morning, when my daughter, who has an account with HDFC bank, came over, I sought her help to make the payment, ending my 5 + 2 hours ordeal spread over two days (incidentally, dummy runs through options other than that of HDFC too seemed dead-ended, as with Corporation Bank), which, with any other site managed by professionals, shouldn't have taken more than 5 minutes. I thereafter re-imbursed the amount to my daughter, through the net, in less than a minute.
Essentially, what is needed is professionalism. And, government and the word are antonymous, whether it's a matter of tax collection, power supply, water supply, bus services, what have you. The answer plainly lies in outsourcing all of these functions to professionals (with credibility, and not some Katta Subramanya Naidu nephew types), and concentrating just on governance. 
Muralidhar Rao
Promod Kapur's picture

Property Tax on line payment

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Murli, you are partly right. I tried but not having the connrcterd bank, I downloaded the return, made a cheque and paid at the ward office. I was out within 2 minutes - done and sealed. The saving really is in the fact that your return is automnatically created and one does not have to fill every column manually. But I hope that next time around they will facilitate payment through all banks through their credit/derbit cards.

Thankfully, I did not have to spend as much time as you had to, but appreciate that yours must definitely be a frustrating and annoying experience.

Naveen's picture

Issue with PID /App Nos.?

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I have been paying property tax online for my house for the past 5-6 years without a hitch using Canara bank credit or debit cards. However, I have been facing problems wrt online payment for apartment.

I was told that once new PID Nos. have been allotted, the problem would be solved & to use 2012-13 application no. till then. When I tried to extract property details with 2012-13 application no., it says "No record", hence paid at the domlur BBMP revenue office.

The payment portal needs improvement, no doubt.

idontspam's picture

Went off without a hitch for

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Went off without a hitch for me... everything was filled in just had to choose the ward and did netbanking payment. 5 minutes!

murali772's picture

it is not just that, there's more to it

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Chandrakanth K, a bank employee, faced some tense moments at the BBMP office in Gandhinagar on Tuesday. The property tax of Rs 13,000 that he paid online a few hours ago hadn't yielded a receipt. Chandrakanth is not alone. BBMP offices across the city were flooded with similar complaints from citizens. - - - -An assistant revenue officer from Gandhinagar admitted at least 50 residents visited their office on Tuesday with complaints. A BBMP revenue official said, "The problem was due to an overload in transactions ahead of the rebate deadline. Those who haven't got the receipt needn't panic; they'll be issued after crosschecking the transaction details." 
For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here
One would hope the Administrator would intervene and not let the revenue officials pass of the problem as due to "overload in transactions ahead of the rebate deadline", and stories like that. There are fundamental problems of professionalism involved here, and if entrusted to the right kind of people, it will not only help maximise revenues by plugging all loopholes, but also help improve governance in very many ways.
We should not be accepting such mediocrity in the services offered to us anymore, whether by government agencies or private.
In fact, this is one additional recommendation I would like to make to the B S Patil Committee to incorporate in its report too. 
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

the problem man

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BBMP BBMP officials admitted the problem was due to a lack of awareness and even anxiety among citizens. "The website is interactive and easy to use, if only citizens would read the instructions," said a senior official in the IT department of the BBMP, who didn't wish to be named. "We have doubled our bandwidth to enable more people to pay tax conveniently this year. All it requires is patience and I request citizens not to panic and click numerous times, even if the process is slow," the official advised. Asked about officers' failure to generate receipts, the official said: "Citizens must be patient, especially if the payment is made in the afternoon. It takes a day for banks to send us payment details and for us to update them, only after that will receipts reach the citizen. I got at least 70 calls today, asking if debit and credit cards of only four banks could be used, when there are clear instructions on the page saying cards of any bank can be used."
For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here.
So, how come all of these don't happen with any of the many other sites that people interact with regularly in today's world? This unnamed official is clearly the problem, and he needs to be given the boot first, if there has to be a solution.
Even today, a friend (a senior techie) posted as below, on a YahooGroup:
I have been lucky in the past. This year my luck ran out. As I write, am making the umpteenth attempt to make it go through. Have learnt so many different server error and other error names (not errors by me in inputting). And the Processing box with constantly circulating circles has taught me patience. I was getting complacent and its good to be brought back to pot-hole-ridden earth with a this..sorry click! Thanks BBMP. 
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

BBMP has no value for citizens' time

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On Monday morning, Jagannath R, a resident of Dattatreya ward in Malleswaram, eagerly logged on to the BBMP website ( to pay his property tax. However, till afternoon, he couldn't make the payment online as the civic body hadn't uploaded the related link.

"The facility was finally available by later afternoon. But that was only the beginning of more problems. Unlike earlier, when a mere mention of property identification number (PID) would lead to the payment page, this time, navigating was very cumbersome. One had to fill many columns, including zone details," said Jagannath.

After much ado, when Jagannath finally managed to fill and upload the form, a small window popped up saying there was a technical error. Even worse, the glitch was never resolved. "Now, I have to go to the BBMP help centre to get the work done. The civic body shouldn't make tall claims if it isn't prepared to for the online system," he added.

Like Jagannath, score of others looking to pay the levy for 2016-17 were left fuming. Technical glitches coupled with an user-unfriendly system rubbed salt into the wounds of property tax holders, already sore about a massive hike in the levy.

At a recent press conference, BBMP commissioner G Kumar Naik had said that the civic body is pushing for online payment of property tax. To facilitate smooth transaction, the commissioner had promised an easy portal link on the BBMP website. All that a tax payer had to do was enter his property tax identification number or the previous receipt number to get going, Naik had said. However, the ground reality is very different.

- - - Mayor B N Manjunath Reddy said he too had come across technical problems with the online system. "I'm confident that officials will attend to the problems to ease the system for the public. This applies to the offline mode as well," he added.

For the full text of the report (emphasis added by me) in the ToI, click here.

Like Mr Jagannath, cited in the report, I too spent over two hours yesterday trying to "crack" the on-line payment process, without success. Many other residents, in the complex I reside in, too, reported similar waste of time. Across the city, if (say) 5% of the (say) 10 lakh property owners, had similarly been spending 2 hours on an average, it would amount to a colossal waste of 1 lakh man-hours, which could have been put to much better use. And, by the time the job is done, I expect the wasted man-hour figure would total to crores. Apparently, neither is the BBMP interested in collecting its tax dues fast, nor has it any concern for the colossal waste of the citizens' time.

And, this has been so right from 2011, when the on-line system was put in place, as evident from the opening post in this blog. Very plainly, the in-house team does not have the capacity to manage it all. So, the Mayor's confidence that the officials will attend to the problems is clearly  misplaced. It's time the citizens demanded outsourcing of the entire job to reputed professional agencies.

Muralidhar Rao
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credibility apparently not a criterion for govt organisations

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In the past few years, in order to catch up with technology, several government agencies in the city have rolled out their own apps, often complicating instead of simplifying the grievance-redressal mechanisms.

Civic expert V Ravichandar says that these apps will work effectively when the processes at the back-end are integrated so that complaints and requests can be addressed in real-time. If the government really wants its people to use it, "they need to take a citizen-centric approach, where there is a single app or number for anything that the citizen wants to engage with," he said.

For the full text of the report in the Economic Times, click here.

Building Apps, one would have thought, comes after an organisation has built a robust web-site, and the back-end processes put in place. But, quite as evident from what we are experiencing with the BBMP property tax on-line payment process (scroll above, to read my post of 6th April), apart from what's seen here, this has not quite happened, to begin with. Quite obviously, all that the government organisations are interested is in being seen as having "caught up with technology", particularly so in a city like Bengaluru, which is at the forefront of all advancements in the IT field - their own credibility be damned; citizen-centredness be damned.

Muralidhar Rao
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hallmark of incompetence, incapacity

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Venkatachalapathy said it will take a while for the Palike and the public to adjust to the changes. "This year, we have been pushing for online payments. There has also been a reorganization of zones, which has coincided with the tax revision. We have done away with 75% of the glitches with the help of National Informatics Centre (NIC), which has developed the new platform. Validation of property tax identification numbers and GIS tagging is pending in some cases," he added.

When asked why the civic agency launched the online payment system without adequate preparation, the deputy commissioner admitted they had very little time. "But if we hadn't done this, we would have lost another year before we could streamline tax payments. Once the present system stabilizes, we will achieve accountability and transparency in collecting property tax," he added.

For the full text of the report (emphasis added by me) in the ToI, click here.

Plain incapacity, incompetence, apathy, for all of which BBMP has become the hall-mark, besides of course, corruption. At least now, they appear to have conceded that their in-house team has capacity limitations, and chosen to approach NIC. But, going by what we have seen of NIC in the voters' list preparation and maintenance (check here), they may perhaps be just a shade better. But, for Bangalore which today produces goods and provides services that are world-class, that's not good enough. The simple answer is to outsource the job to reputed professionals, quite like Income Tax, Passport Dept, etc, have done.

Incidentally, in their GIS mapping, the complex where I reside, is shown located in the neighboring complex.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

now, drones to the rescue !!!

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Here's a sample of the posts on our complex YahooGroup, giving clearly an indication of the extent of confusion caused by the totally incompetent BBMP property tax collection machinery:

RM: BBMP has finally got the process working. But, let me caution you - it requires a lot of patience, even to process a payment as straight-forward as mine. Only on the 3rd attempt, after struggling for some 3 hrs, did I manage to crack it - paid through credit card.

VP: Do you know if we can pay the tax offline at BBMP or something? I have been trying for a long time and the website automatically stops working or just goes blank. Have tried for an hour and half now for the second time.

NS: I used the ATM there to pay in cash.  a couple of extra counters were there. I collected the countrfoil of the challan, receipt can be printed with the application number in the challan-not yet done.

SR: It worked for me online. 15 minutes start to end. 1) Starting with the site : Pay Property Tax - BBMP. 2) to get the property details: entered the Property ID (PID) from the previous year under the box new PID. Retrieved the property details. 3) There are three forms that come one after the other - form1 : ensure to enter all details marked with red asterisk.  Per RM's advice entered the zone for the property as zone C (i think it was in form 1).  form 2: just pressed enter. form 3 : gave the breakup of the tax details.  For the same sized property as RM - got the same property tax amount for property, except the final amount was much less than what RM has mentioned in the mail and then went on to pay online through netbanking.  4) downloaded the receipt for records.

GKS: This afternoon I paid the tax with a minor hitch.  I did call the help desk number.  The people on the other end were courteous and helped get over the hitch.  May be it will help if you have some kannada lingo but they speak broken english enough to support. If this is the 1st time one is paying online, then I am not sure if the process is as easy as I think it was.

VS: I have been trying to do online payment for over a month now. The message getting displayed when I go to Make payment is 'Unable Modify Data, Active Transaction found for your Application'. When I check payment status it says 'Validity expired, Refile your application'. I tried again today after a 15 day gap and the same messages flash. I had been to the BBMP office twice last month to follow the challan route and he said you have tried online so wait for 10 days & try again. We cannot generate the challan. Can anyone suggest a way to get around this issue ?

JC: I faced similar problem as by mistake I selected challan option and now it doesn't allow online payment. While I do have the option, but I would have loved to pay online rather than going to the BBMP or Canara Bank. I too called Helpline and those people are good for nothing as they said they don't know what to do and told me to wait for 2 days but the status is still the same. I dropped in a complaint also and what I got from them was "Your Complaint Has Been Rejected". BBMP once again has been fooling around people and nothing else, they only want money but not willing to provide a stable platform to their customers.

The man-hours wasted by the citizens, as also the BBMP officials trying to work the broken-down system, is too costly for city like Bengaluru, that's a serious player in the highly competitive global market today, to afford.

The irony of it all is that even as they don't seem to have the capacity to put together a very basic system, they come up with highfalutin talk of using "unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, to map urban properties and property taxes" - check ToI report accessible here.

Very simply the job is beyond their capacity, or those of various half-baked professionals they seem to have tried out (see my post of 21st Oct, '14 - scrolling above), or even NIC, for that matter. It's time they made over the job to reputed professional set-ups like TCS (already doing similar jobs for Passport dept, and lately Indian Railways - check here), Infosys (doing it for Income Tax dept), etc.

More importantly, it's time tax payers demanded it.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

absolute incompetence

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The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has extended the last date for availing five per cent rebate on property tax till the end of June.

For the full text of the report in The Hindu, click here.

A job that should have been completed in one day if entrusted to competent professionals, is taking eternity, and for all of that, it'll still remain incomplete. When will it dawn on the powers that be that this is costing the city and the citizens dearly?

Meanwhile, two more posts interesting posts came up on our complex yahoo-group:

PS: I am getting an increase of 29.6% in case of zone C. Is the zone and increase the same for all?

AA: I am seeing a reduction by almost ~3000. I did select zone C in the application. Should I go to the BBMP office with last year's receipt and this year's challan? If so, where is this office and is it open today?

The ironies are telling.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

professionalism needed

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Nearly ten years after it was conceived, the Geographic Information System (GIS) tag -with all areas of Bengaluru digitally mapped -is a reality.

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike's GIS plan will address the lacunae plaguing Bengaluru's urban planning for long. Now, the Palike can identify and categorize urban-land use, determine a terrain's slope for storm wa ter drains, and use digital maps to estimate dwelling units by size. The BBMP will roll out seven GIS-based programmes. The system will be used for an array of activities - tracking vehicles to monitoring solid waste management to maintaining roads.

The civic agency will launch its first GIS-based service in September: the property tax collection system. Palike commissioner Manju nath Prasad said, "The CM is likely to launch it on September 15. This is just the beginning. A lot more to come."

For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here.

It's actually been over 15 years since the concept was visualised. In fact, if I recall correctly, it was during the first BATF meeting under Sri S M Krishna's CM-ship (99-04), that the renowned architect, Mr Naresh Narasimhan first talked about this. Thereafter, the need for this has constantly been emphasised by many including here on Praja. Well, finally it looks like it's happening after all.

But, the key question is who is doing it all? One hopes the BBMP has realised (and the powers that be have allowed it to realise) that such tasks call for professionalism far beyond its in-house capacity limitations. Its job is just to frame the guidelines, select a professional agency (more like a TCS, which is doing the back-end work for Passport dept; or Infosys likewise for Income Tax; and not any Katta Subramania Naidu's nephew types, as has been the case all along), entrust the work to them, and thereafter monitor the work.

Not just property taxes will go up multiple times (more than justifying the additional costs involved), but many other benefits will follow.

One is beginning to believe that the CM is finally taking charge, sidelining all the vested interests - if so, all strength to him.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Can they ever get it right?

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The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) on Monday announced extension of 5% rebate facility for property tax payments till June 15, 2017. The deadline hitherto was May 30. The move from the civic body comes in the wake of problems being faced by citizens in tax payments in both online and offline modes owing to the technical glitches in the property tax software. City Mayor G Padmavathi said, "Our officials are working to resolve the technical issues connected to property tax payments. The issues will be solved soon."

For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here.

The following were the comments made by Mr M Venkatachalapathy, deputy commissioner (revenue), BBMP, made in April last year (check my post of 11th April, '16, scrolling above):

We have done away with 75% of the glitches with the help of National Informatics Centre (NIC), which has developed the new platform. Validation of property tax identification numbers and GIS tagging is pending in some cases," he added.

When asked why the civic agency launched the online payment system without adequate preparation, the deputy commissioner admitted they had very little time. "But if we hadn't done this, we would have lost another year before we could streamline tax payments. Once the present system stabilizes, we will achieve accountability and transparency in collecting property tax," he added.

For all of that, the glitches remain (and fresh ones are also showing up), and even after two months of starting the exercise, they have not been able to fix them.

I paid my tax for the current year (17-18) last week. But try as I might all possible 'tricks' I knew, I couldn't manage to generate a receipt from the system. Another tax payer, who pays taxes for four properties every year, told me that there appeared inconsistencies in almost all cases, and so, he chose to go over to the local revenue office, and get the challans generated for payment at the bank. Apparently, the official BBMP receipt will become available only about a month hence.   

Well, NIC has not covered itself in glory in the past too, a case in point being the electoral rolls (check here). It's time the job be made over to reputed professional set-ups like TCS (already doing similar jobs for Passport dept, and lately Indian Railways), Infosys (doing it for Income Tax dept), etc.

Property tax being the main revenue source, one had thought that, somewhere along, they would entrust the job to professionals, and benefit from the resulting improved revenue mobilisation (while simultaneously making the process more user friendly too). Apparently, there are other forces that are acting against it, and continue to exercise their hold even now.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Fatal combination of lack of accountability and incompetence

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Property tax accounts for two-thirds of BBMP’s revenue. With the number of dwelling units in the city, the civic body should target Rs 5,500-6,000 crore in property tax. But the fact that they are targetting only Rs 2,600 crore means they are underestimating the number of properties.  

- - - All government organisations should have a Chief Technology Officer who should be from the private sector. And, by way of enforcement, the BBMP should publish a list of the biggest defaulters and shame them.

There is no reason for the Silicon Valley of India not to have expertise that can be tapped. The Palike can hire IT professionals.

For the full text (emphasis added by me) of the column by Sri K Jairaj, IAS retd, former Addl Chief Secretary, GoK, in the New Indian Express's well researched series titled "Tax takes a Toll", click here.

Excerpts from another report in the series (for the full text, click here):

Senior manager for advocacy at the NGO Janaagraha, Anil Nair, said Bengaluru could take a leaf out of Ranchi corporation’s book which had benefitted by outsourcing its revenue collection process to a private firm. “The firm even does door-to-door collection,” he said.

Excerpts from a third report in the series (for the full text, click here):

With hundreds of citizens facing issues with payment of property tax, much of the blame has been directed at National Informatics Centre (NIC), the government body which developed the software. - - - An orientation session for the software was also conducted by NIC officials. The tax inspector says it was clear the NIC officials themselves were not very clear about their own software. Technical Officer of NIC, R Venkatesh, refused to comment on the issue saying it was NIC’s policy to not speak to the media. The NIC comes under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

In my post of 31st May (scroll above to read), I had stated "NIC has not covered itself in glory in the past". But, this about takes the cake. The caption I have given this post of "fatal combination of lack of accountability and incompetence" applies equally to NIC, as well as BBMP.

The answer as I have stated from long, which Mr Jairaj is also now beginning to say (now that he is out of the government), is outsourcing of much of the back-end work to professional players, quite like Income Tax has engaged Infosys, and Passport Department has engaged TCS, etc. Quite as Mr Jairaj has pointed out, the revenue collection will multiply, making the exercise cost effective too.

It is a crying shame that we, in the so-called tech capital of the country, are asked to follow low-lie Ranchi's example in these matters.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Notes for new CM of Karnataka

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The new CM (Sri H D Kumaraswamy) had apparently written to Mr Narayanamurthy requesting suggestions from Civil Society on the immediate steps his govt could take to improve the overall city governance scene. Mr Narayanamurthy, in turn, requested BRACE (Mr Sridhar Pabbisetty), amongst other organisations, for inputs. The following are the contents of the note I sent to Mr Sridhar Pabbisetty, as my inputs, in this connection:
Bengaluru today produces goods and provides services that are comparable to the best in the world. However, working in an environment where the basic infrastructure services - power, water, public transport - are so poor, is making them increasingly less competitive, making the city's sustenance itself a question mark.

The contrast is stark - the world-class products and services are produced/ provisioned by the private sector; the infrastructure services are all in the hands of government agencies (public sector).

And, the irony is that, in each of these infrastructure areas, there are shining examples of private sector players doing extremely well, within the country itself.

1) Power supply: Privatisation of power distribution, in Delhi, has transformed the scene there to where they are now considering levy of penalty on the distribution company in case of power interruptions. Bangalore, as the tech capital of the country, cannot afford to have power supply reliability (as also the other parameters) any less than in Delhi, which cannot happen with government-run BESCOM managing it. Incidentally, GoK was among the first of the states to decide to go the distribution privatisation way, decades back. What has been achieved by Delhi can be achieved by Bengaluru within a maximum of 3 years. The work on it has to start right away.

2) Public bus transport services: With over 30,000 executives availing the services of "bus aggregator", "Shuttl", for their work-day commute, in NCR Delhi and Kolkatta, there have been huge ameliorations in traffic congestion and air pollution problems there. Ironically, these services were first introduced by ZipGo in Bengaluru, way back in 2015. But, they were thrown out, since they were supposedly affecting the revenue accruals to BMTC's Volvo operations. But, BMTC's Volvo operations are making losses, either way. So, there's no longer any excuse to retain BMTC/ KSRTC monopoly. As such, the bus services sector should be opened out to the likes of ZipGo, as also private players who can provide effective feeder services to NammaMetro (BMRCL) straightaway, and eventually to others too(Check @ ), under the overall oversight of a properly constituted UMTA.

3) Water supply: In the area of water supply (as also sewerage management) too, many cities in the UK have privatised/ outsourced the jobs to professional players, and are better of for it all. Their rivers and lakes are now back to nurturing bountiful flora and fauna, as compared to what they were earlier, not too different from what it is like in Bengaluru today, mis-handled as the job is by the fully government controlled BWSSB. The tragedy of it all is that 1450 MLD of water is pumped from Cauvery, up some 500M and a distance of close to 100 KM, at a tremendous cost, of which over 45% become "unaccounted for" after reaching Bengaluru. Plainly, there is very little accountability when these jobs are handled totally by the parastatal, BWSSB. Within the country too, cities like Nagpur, and a few in Karnataka itself, are experimenting with models involving professional players. The government needs to engage with an expert team to recommend the best of options to bring in more professionalism and thereby accountability into this most critical area.

Actually, it is the poor who are the biggest sufferers of the inefficiency of the utilities, since the rich can always find alternatives, however costly they may be. And, where the question of affordability may arise, subsidies may be offered via DBS (direct benefit scheme) into the bank accounts of the identified beneficiaries, quite like it is already happening in the case of gas supplies.

 I would also like to draw the attention of the government to the following items, which do not appear to have been covered by others:

a) The RERA implemetation, as also updating of KAOA, and integrating of KOFA with RERA, have been rather tardy in the state, compared to the progress made in Maharashtra and other states. The matter affects lakhs of home buyers, who have invested their hard-earned money for a roof over their heads. The implementation has to happen expeditiously. Firstly, the government needs to appoint a regular RERA, as well as an Appellate tribunal, as per the provisions of the Act.

b) The Inspector General of Registration and Commissioner of Stamps has announced that he is all set to implement the "Sulabha Nondani" or "Pre Registration Data Entry" (PRDE) scheme, which is almost a DIY project for property registration, in order to eliminate middle-men from the process. Simultaneously, the matter of closure of the scamster "Under Valuation Cell" also needs to be pursued, for the real big relief for property buyers (Check @ ).  

PS: Reference may also be made to an earlier blog on a related subject - check @

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

tech can help only to some extent

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Property registration in Karnataka is all set to become more secure and hassle-free, with the state government developing a system based on blockchain technology for online property documentation. The new system, developed in collaboration with IIT- Kanpur, promises an immutable electronic storage of property data through blockchain. In other words, data once stored cannot be changed, eliminating risks of impersonation and unauthorised tweaking of records.
- - The new system is expected to strengthen the revenue department's existing Kaveri portal. "The identification of a property database in a sub registrar's office will become easy. Right now, Kaveri depends on human discretion for verification of identity and ownership. A sub-registrar's office will authenticate all this. The new technology will reduce human discretion as the cards will prove your identity and authentication," the expert added.
For the full text (highlighting added by me) of the report captioned "Karnataka to use blockchain for property registration" in The Deccan Herald, click here.
This is indeed a much needed exercise. However, as far as the city is concerned, alongside is the need for backward & forward integration of property data, whereby the location, land area, built-up area of every property is readily available on the net. For this, the registration of a property transaction with the sub-regstrar has to be linked to BBMP records, which in turn has to be linked to the revenue records, maintained by the Registrar of Stamps. Once this happens, BBMP can realise the full potential of it's property tax revenue, the collection of which by the present archaic system is less than half of it.
Well, it's not as if all of this is not already known. But sadly, the clout of the vested interests seem to prevail.   
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

wayward ways of BBMP on-line payment system

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In mid-April, I had tweeted as below:
At least some four different people had called me, over the past few days, to clarify on matters pertaining to property tax payment. My experiences over the past so many years have never quite been satisfactory, and I have blogged about it extensively too, starting from 2011 - for the latest post, check @
Like every year, this time too, I said a small prayer before logging in. Even though the Property ID has changed almost a decade back, I find it the old ID number the best tool to log in, followed by my name (it has to be in capitals - otherwise, it'll not work). Certainly not good enough for arguably the tech capital of the country, aspiring to be the tech capital of the world.
Like a friend had commented - BBMP tax portal is like logging in to win a lottery! Such exultation when it goes through, even though you are the one who is shelling out the money.
While with a few friends yesterday, the talk came up again, with one of them expressing disgust over the manual process he had to follow with one of his three properties suddenly going off-line for no apparent reason. Well, that's BBMP for you!
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