VVIPs made 99 unofficial halts: CAG

VVIPs made 99 unofficial halts: CAG

Rs 69.62 lakh spent on making arrangements

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found five instances of the Commerce Minister Anand Sharma making unsanctioned halts in Chicago and London, resulting in additional government expenses to the tune of Rs 12.87 lakh in 2009 and 2010 for his accommodation in hotels, hiring cars, arranging mobile phones and cash allowances for him.

The Consulate General of India in Chicago incurred expenditure of Rs 2.47 lakh as Sharma made an unsanctioned halt in the city while on an official visit to Washington DC and New York to attend and address the Synergies Summit on the occasion of the United States India Business Council’s 34th anniversary in June 2009.

The High Commission of India in London had to bear an expenditure of Rs 10.40 lakh, when the commerce minister and his personal secretary made unsanctioned halts in the UK capital on four occasions, while travelling to attend conferences and bilateral meetings in Geneva, Senegal, Finland and Paris. The sanctions for those visits did not provide for halts in London. Besides, the UK capital was also not part of the approved route fixed for travel by the Ministry of External Affairs.

Both the CGI Chicago and HCI London later sought ex post facto sanction for regularisation of expenditure.

Not only Sharma, but the then Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Murli Deora also made unsanctioned halts in Paris, while travelling to and from Venezuelan capital Caracas in May 2010. “The transit stay in Paris was for four nights, while the stay at the final destination was for two days,” the CAG said in a report tabled in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Though the sanction accorded by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas for the visit of Deora to Caracas did not provide for transit in Paris, the Indian Embassy in French capital had to incur an expenditure of Rs 6.75 lakh for hotel accommodation as well as for hiring a chauffer-driven car for the minister and his personal secretary.

The CAG found altogether 99 cases, in which 16 Indian Missions abroad incurred a total expenditure of Rs 69.62 lakh to make arrangements for visiting dignitaries and delegations during their transit halts “without the sanction of the competent financial authority”.

Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur, too, made an unscheduled transit halt in London on her way to New York in October 2010 to attend the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly.