CAG nails missions abroad for profligacy

Envoys lead luxurious lifestyle by flouting rules

Indian embassy in Surinamese capital Paramaribo spent Rs 64.15 lakh from public exchequer to build a swimming pool at the residence of the ambassador, flouting government rules.

Indian ambassador’s residence in Brussels could not be renovated within the stipulated cost and time frame due to repeated additions and modifications, including extensive arrangements for floor heating. The cost shot up to ¤  2.096 million from initially estimated ¤ 1.4 million. The renovation project took 30 months to  complete as against originally envisaged 12 months.

Not only the embassies in Surinamese and Belgian capitals, the Comptroller and Auditor General also found flaws in management of the government properties by several Indian missions abroad and detected significant avoidable expenses from the public exchequer.

The CAG slammed the Indian missions in Bangkok and Warsaw as well as the Ministry of External Affairs for displaying “extraordinary indecision” on Government owned property in Thai and Polish capitals, resulting in continued idling of the plots for over 35 and 22 years respectively and avoidable annual rental expenditures of Rs 2.15 crore and Rs 1.28 crore respectively. The auditor also noted that the Indian Mission in Belarus capital Minsk hired a significantly large property for its chancery without the prior approval of the MEA.
The hired premises consisting of three floors including large basement measured 344 square meters more than the space norms prescribed by the MEA and would result in an avoidable extra expenditure of at least Rs 42.12 lakh, it added.

Though the heads of the Indian missions abroad are authorized to have furnished residential accommodations when serving outside India, the permitted scales do not provide for construction of swimming pool at the Embassy Residences. But the CAG found that the embassy of India in Paramaribo had spent ¤ 100,000 (Rs 64.15 lakh) to build a swimming pool after acquisition of a property for the Embassy Residence in March 2010. The CAG report quoted the Indian Mission at the capital of Suriname stating that it had signed an agreement with the seller for construction “of a water body and not a swimming pool”. The national auditor remained unconvinced and noted that the swimming pool at the Embassy Residence was not “covered under the laid down scales”.

The MEA’s Standing Finance Committee in September 2008 sanctioned ¤ 1.4 million for renovation of the Embassy Residence in Brussels and stipulated a time-frame of one year for completion of works. But the Indian Embassy in the Belgian capital and the consultant hired by it kept on expanding the scope of the works repeatedly, thus causing escalation of cost and time overrun.

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