BHUBANESWAR:The State is likely to lose the financial assistance from the Thirteenth Finance Commission (TFC) for its failure to utilise funds sanctioned for benchmarking basic urban services.
As basic services provided by urban local bodies (ULB) are well below the desired level, the Ministry of Urban Development launched service level benchmarking (SLB) initiatives in four areas of basic urban services - water supply, sewerage, storm water drainage and solid waste management. The SLB initiative was launched in February 2009 in 28 cities of 14 states including Orissa on a pilot basis. With financial assistance from TFC, the Urban Development Department started the initiative in Bhubaneswar and Berhampur.
In the first phase, the TFC had sanctioned Rs 4.22 crore for conducting household survey to create a database on the number of households having regular and irregular pipe water connection in the service areas of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation and installation of meters to measure water input and output.
The Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) was required to develop an information system improvement plan (ISIP) taking into account the number of households covered under pipe-water supply, per capita supply of water, extent of metering of water connections, extent of non-revenue water, continuity of water supply, quality of water supplied, cost recovery from water supplied, efficiency in collection, and public grievance redressal mechanism.
The department invited tenders in February for installation of flow meters to measure water input and output and set up meter calibration and testing system on strategic locations of the city. Since there was a lone bidder, the department cancelled the tender. After cancellation, the department is sitting over the matter. As the Government failed to utilise the TFC fund in the last fiscal, it is going to lose the second dose of assistance from the Centre, official sources said.
Benchmarking of service provided is now well recognised as an important mechanism for introducing accountability in service delivery. It involves measuring and monitoring of service provider performance on a systematic and continuous basis. Sustained benchmarking can help utilities to identify performance gaps and introduce improvements through the sharing of information and best practices, ultimately resulting in better services to people. However, many officers in the department are trying to detail the reforms process for obvious reasons, the sources said.
The SLB is one of the conditionality for allocation of performance based grants to ULBs over a period of five years starting from 2010-11.