Friday, October 14, 2011

Public audit and transport budget transparency: Pune India

Parisar is a civil society organization in Pune India working on lobbying and advocacy for sustainable development. Its work focuses mainly on sustainable urban transport, since it recognizes that unsustainable transport policies and systems are the foremost threat to urban environment and quality of life. This article, kindly shared with us by their blog team at, reports on an activity the likes of which we would like to see in every city in the world -- a continuing citizen audit of the city's budget, and in particular those aspects that relate to transportation investments and expenditures.

Transport Budget Analysis 2011-12

Pune has for several years allocated the largest share of its budget to the transportation sector. At around 30% of the total budget, this sector gets a larger share than important sectors like health, sanitation & slum rehabilitation together.

The country has formulated a National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) and the city has commissioned a Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP). One would expect that allocation of money within the transportation sector would follow the principles of NUTP and attempt to achieve the goals laid down in the CMP. These documents have clearly mentioned their key focus as “mobility of people rather than vehicles” and keeping with this spirit, the main emphasis of CMP has been promoting public and non motorized transport in the city, and states that their modal shares should be 40% and 50% respectively by 2030.

Parisar analyzed the budgetary allocation on transportation sector in Pune’s 2011-12 budget. It emerges that more than 60% of the transport sector budget is allocated to projects which are motor vehicle friendly like building of new roads, flyovers, parking structures and re-tarring of roads. On the other hand, non-motorized friendly and public-transport friendly projects get only 9% and 18% respectively of the budget allocation in spite of including doubtful projects such as subways, skywalks, BRT (as currently implemented) and Metro (as currently planned). This clearly suggests that the city has not paid any attention to the guidelines of NUTP or the goals set by CMP while preparing its budget.

The report also presents an ‘alternative approach’, which reallocates the transport sector budget of the last two years by using all the funds budgeted for non-motorized transport (footpaths, cycle tracks) and public transport (bus augmentation, BRT, metro and mono-rail)and some of the funds allocated to motor-vehicle friendly projects and projects of doubtful utility such as pedestrian subways and skywalks, and deploying them with the explicit goal of achieving the CMP goals.

The results are startling. With the alternative funds allocation, it turns out that the city could have built around 62.5 kms of BRT (including 125 kms of cycle tracks), 612 km of footpaths, 25 km of cycle tracks (on non-BRT roads) and added about 525 buses to the PMPML fleet. Instead, over these two years, the PMC has only built 16 kms of BRT (improperly implemented), 90 km of usable footpaths, 0 kms of usable cycle tracks, and added 136 new buses under PMPML. If one compares what could have been achieved and what has been achieved to the goals set by CMP, the alternative approach would have achieved 100% of the target for footpath construction, cycle track construction, bus fleet augmentation and BRT corridor construction, while the original budget has only achieved 15%, 0%, 17% and 26% respectively.

This clearly shows that a shortage of funds is not the reason for not being able to pursue and achieve CMP goals, but a lack of vision and commitment from PMC. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the right vision and commitment from PMC, so that these goals can be achieved and Pune can get the transport solutions it needs and deserves.

* Download a copy from here.

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Thank you Parisar for reminding us that democracy starts and ends with active citizenry.

* We also would like to direct your attention to their work to develop a balanced view of BRT, and then to support informed public policy about how to get it right. Once again, active citizens ready to stand forward and do their part. Click here for more on that.

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