New Delhi: The 13th Finance Commission has asked state governments to form property tax boards that will help municipal bodies to put in place independent and transparent procedures to assess property tax.
Such a board would enumerate all properties within the jurisdiction of the municipalities, review the present property tax system and suggest a suitable basis for valuation of properties. It would also suggest how such local taxes should be periodically reviewed.
Speedy justice: The commission has agreed to support a Rs5,000 crore grant for more support to lok adalats to ease pressure on regular courts. Madhu Kapparath/Mint
The recommendation is part of an effort to create new institutions at the state and local levels to ensure that funds are better utilized, encourage innovation and to speed up the delivery of services to citizens.
State governments have also been mandated to put in place an audit system for all local bodies. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) must be given authority to audit all the local administrations in a state, said the finance commission; the CAG report, which would be tabled in the state assemblies, is expected to lead to better compliance.
The commission also asked state governments to put in place a system of independent ombudsmen who would look into complaints of corruption and maladministration against the functionaries of local bodies and recommend suitable action.
The system will be made applicable to all elected functionaries and officials in all municipal corporations, municipalities and zila parishads, or district councils.
To spur innovation at the local level, the commission recommended the creation of a district innovation fund.
An annual grant of Rs1 crore will be given to every district, aimed at increasing the efficiency of capital assets already created. The money will be used to plug vital gaps in public infrastructure that’s not being fully utilized for want of a relatively small investment.
The commission accepted the request of the Andhra Pradesh government for assistance to set up a Centre for Innovations in Public Systems (CIPS) at the Administrative Staff College of India in Hyderabad.
CIPS would promote and disseminate practices capable of enhancing service delivery, increasing efficiency and cutting costs in public systems. It will conduct training programmes and enable experience sharing.
The commission has also provided grant provisions for the purpose of encouraging states to establish an independent regulatory mechanism for the water sector and improved maintenance of irrigation networks on the model of the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority.
This institutional reform is to be introduced by 2011-12 and has been made mandatory for state governments to be eligible to draw down performance grants for the succeeding year.
To speed up the delivery of justice, the commission agreed to support proposals made by the department of justice by approving a grant of Rs5,000 crore to enhance support to lok adalats, or local dispute resolution forums, to reduce pressure on regular courts and to increase the number of working hours at courts using the existing infrastructure by holding morning and evening shifts.
The law ministry has estimated that there are some 30 million cases pending in various courts in the country. The commission expects that about 14,825 such courts can dispose of 22.5 million pending as well as freshly filed cases of a minor nature within a year.