An article in a national daily published from Delhi dated 24th July 2019, has raised issues of monitoring and Governance mechanism in Smart City companies due to non-appointment of Independent Directors. It has been mentioned that the absence of independent director means that the Ministry is not monitoring the projects and implementation has been left to the Smart City Management. It is clarified as under:-
As per amended Rule 4 of the Companies (Appointment and Qualification of Directors) rules 2017 "an unlisted public company which is a joint venture, a wholly-owned subsidiary or a dormant company will not be required to appoint Independent Directors.". It is therefore clarified that the Smart Cities SPVs are not mandatorily required to appoint Independent Directors to vide the notification of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has appointed Nominee Directors in all 100 Smart Cities from the Ministry who attend board meetings and keep track of the progress for their cities. Clear role and responsibilities have been defined and issued by way of guidelines for these nominee Directors. They act as the eyes and ears of the Ministry and ensure the highest standards of Corporate Governance in Smart City Companies.
Also, while the SPVs established at the city level are responsible for the implementation of Smart City Projects as per their Proposals with technical assistance from the Project Management Consultants, the Mission Directorate monitors their performance in several different ways directly and indirectly.
The project implementation progress at the city level is reported to the National Mission Directorate through periodic progress reports indicating the envisaged mission targets and achievements. A Smart City Mission Management Unit has been set up within the National Mission Directorate to help monitor the progress of projects across the 100 Smart Cities.
A centralized MIS dashboard has been developed for the cities to upload data about project progress which is used by Mission Directorate to track implementation progress regularly. The progress is also regularly reviewed through state-level meetings, city visits and Video Conference calls. During such events, the cities are encouraged to raise issues to the Mission. The Mission proposes suitable solutions to resolve issues and bring progress on track.
A Network of City Support Coordinators (CSCs) designated at the Mission office also work actively to monitor project implementation, read the pulse of the cities and anticipate any imminent bottlenecks. For proactive monitoring and to get first-hand information on the progress of cities and understand their problems, Mission regularly organizes several events vis. Conferences, regional workshops, annual events, where officials from various States, Ministry, experts, and ecosystem partners participate to review mission progress and share best practices.
Support to Cities
In addition to the above, the ministry provides support to the cities in the form of technical assistance, capacity building, finance, and international tie-ups, which not only helps cities perform better but also informs of various aspects of their performance.
The mission has developed several assessments frameworks such as Ease of Living and Municipal Performance Index, Data Maturity Assessment Framework, Climate Smart Assessment Framework. These assessment frameworks have been designed to give direct inputs to critical issues about cities. They also raise awareness of the cities about the issues at hand and develop their understanding about addressing them. Capacity building workshops for municipal and city officials are regularly conducted to orient them to these frameworks.
On the pace of the Mission
100 cities have been selected for development as Smart Cities in four rounds over two and a half years (from January 2016 to June 2018). As on 19 July 2019, 3700 projects worth about Rs. 1,36,000 crore have been tendered, out of which work orders have been issued for 2,900 projects worth more than Rs. 90,000 crore and over 900 projects worth more than Rs. 15,000 crore have been completed.
The number of projects tendered in SCM has accelerated by 170% since June 2018.
Similarly, the total amount of work started in the Mission has increased by almost 200% since June 2018.
Most of these projects are innovative and/or are happening in our country for the very first time. For example, 16 Command and Control Centres have been established and 55 would get operational by end of this year. Most cities are actively working on areas like urban spaces, Solar Energy, Safety, Public Transport, Complete Streets, and improved Citizen Services and so on.
Some of these key projects being developed are as follows:
Smart Command and Control Centres in 16 cities have been completed and are operational, while it is under development in 45 cities, 10 cities have issued tenders.
Smart Roads in 25 cities have been completed and are operational, while it is under development in 60 cities. 37 cities have issued tenders.
Smart Solar in 15 cities have been completed and are operational, while it is under development in 37 cities. 8 cities have issued tenders.
Smart Wastewater in 10 cities have been completed and are operational, while it is under development in 50 cities. 19 cities have issued tenders.
Smart Water projects in 24 cities have been completed and are operational, while it is under development in 56 cities. 29 cities have issued tenders.
The article has failed to bring out the fact that Smart City Mission is just not about projects. The Mission addresses several systemic issues relating to the processes and outcomes of urban development—local government empowerment is one of them as envisioned in the 74h amendment. Ultimately the aim is to empower and enable local governments to become sustainable in the long term. While the SPVs are given sufficient autonomy, the Mission Directorate's role is to not spoon-feed them but guide and mentor them as and when required with two clear objectives: to obviate the chances of inappropriate spending of public money and to empower the SPVs to become self-sufficient in future.
(With Inputs from PIB)