Thursday, March 16, 2006

India Speaker rebuked on spending

BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | India Speaker rebuked on spending: "India's top auditing body has reprimanded the Speaker of parliament for unauthorised expenses during overseas trips nearly 10 years ago. The auditors say Somnath Chatterjee spent thousands of dollars more than his entitlement without submitting valid receipts.

Mr Chatterjee, who is an MP of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), was then the chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC), a post he held until he took over as Speaker of the lower house of parliament in June 2004.

The CAG says that in 1996-97 alone, Mr Chatterjee drew $8,525 above the amount he was entitled to without furnishing evidence of expenditure.

For instance, as development corporation chairman, he was entitled to draw $75 per day for his three-day stay in Germany and double that per day for a subsequent nine-day stay in the United States. But Mr Chatterjee actually drew $6,000 for the 12 days at the rate of $500 a day.

The CAG report added: "Scrutiny of hotel bills of the chairman and managing director of the WBIDC relating to their stay in Israel, Germany, France and the UK from 8 to 22 September 1998 revealed that apart from room rentals, an expenditure of $1,072 was made towards minibar, bar, laundry and tobacco."

From 1996-1999, various officials of eight such West Bengal state-run companies are alleged to have undertaken 74 overseas trips involving an expenditure of 14.4 million rupees ($326,000). The CAG report says that prior approval of the federal department of economic affairs, which is mandatory, was obtained for 63 such tours, involving 11.6 million rupees.

In December last year, Mr Chatterjee was scathing in his criticism of 10 MPs after they were seen allegedly asking for bribes on Indian television."

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