The Telegraph
Saturday , July 7 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
CIMA Gallary

Bill bloopers in House audit

• Legislative Council member Mishri Lal Yadav, who is part of the SC & ST Welfare Committee of the House, was on study tour to Delhi, Goa and Maharashtra from January 29, 2011, to February 14, 2011. He claimed and got Rs 42,737 for the tour. Scrutiny of his travel bills shows that he travelled by air from Patna to Delhi on January 29, the same day he claimed he was on a train from Patna to Delhi

• Chandan Bagchi, a member of the art, culture and youth work committee of the House, went on tour to Jharkhand, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh from January 30, 2008, to February 14, 2008. Bagchi claimed a bill of over Rs 40,000. He claimed to have taken a flight from Patna to Ranchi on January 31. But his travel bills show a rail journey to the same destination on the same day

Anomalies galore have been detected in the inspection report of the accountant general (AG) of the Bihar Legislative Council. The report suspects that as many as 77 members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) may have used rail travel coupons fraudulently to the tune of Rs 2.64 crore, received excess payment of daily allowance amounting to over Rs 79 lakh and made claims on fictitious journeys during committee tours for an amount of over Rs 5.82 lakh.

A startling disclosure in the report is of MLCs having travelled to the same destination on train and by flight on the same day.

“The audit is for the period April 2006 to February 2012. Had the period been longer, the findings would have been even more devastating. It indicates the rot in the political system,” said a former MLC.

According the rules, each legislator is entitled to rail travel coupons worth Rs 1.5 lakh every financial year. Within this limit, the MLC is entitled to air travel with family for a maximum of Rs 75,000.

The report indicates that within this period, the Council had issued rail travel coupons worth over Rs 3.27 crore to 105 MLCs. The findings point out that no travel details were shown by MLCs in their respective travel allowance (TA) bills, except in their hometown journeys and out of the state committee tours which is for 15 days a year.

The members are supposed to return their unused coupons to the House at least 15 days before they expire. However, the report says not a single coupon was returned during the entire period.

At least 34 MLCs claimed to have gone on frequent journeys outside Patna but simultaneously also claimed daily allowance of at Rs 1,000 per day for the same period by stating that they were in Patna.

“Their TA bills are false and fictitious and the rail journeys were not actually undertaken by them,” the report says.

According to the audit, railway tickets issued in the name of the members were actually used by others who impersonated as the MLCs. Former members say such gross misuse of coupons is not possible without the active involvement of MLCs.

Under the rules, daily allowance of Rs 500 (increased to Rs 1,000 per day with effect from April 1, 2011) is given to MLCs for a maximum period of 20 days within Bihar and 15 days outside the state (in which case the allowance has been increased to Rs 2,000). This allowance is given to MLCs attending to any other business connected to his duty. The inspection report, which test-checked files of 77 MLCs, points out that excess payment to the tune of Rs 7.62 lakh has been paid to MLCs as allowances they were not entitled for.

Besides Mishri Lal Yadav and Chandan Bagchi, the report mentions the names of Sanjay Jha, Anuj Kumar Singh, Dilip Kumar Yadav, Ranjan Kumar Singh, Rajnish Kumar, Prem Kumar Mani, Bhim Singh (now minister), Upendra Prasad. Dilip Kumar Choudhary and Rajendra Rai.

Bagchi, who has since retired from the House, pinned the blame on “a clerical mistake”. “We sign the bill format and the rest is done by the clerks in the accounts section. They should have shown it to me before submitting the final bill. The moment I came to know about this development, I returned the excess amount through a challan. It was a small amount and I do not remember the sum,” Bagchi told The Telegraph.

Acting chairman of the House Salim Parvez confirmed that objections had been issued by the accountant general.

“The audit is still on. When we received objections about the travel allowances claimed by members, we sent it to the members concerned. We will send their reply to the AG,” he said, stressing that he did not feel that there was any irregularity in bills raised by the “honourable members”.

Former chairman of the House Tarakant Jha had directed the AG to carry out the audit report. “I did my constitutional duty by ordering the audit. Today I am no longer a member of the House and I have not seen the report. But if anyone is guilty of irregularities, he or she should be punished,” Jha said.