New Delhi [India]: The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has highlighted irregularities in the receipt and utilisation of compensation related to the renovation of the basement at India House in London, leading to undue benefits being extended to the contractor.
Notably, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, MP, Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), presented the Eighty-seventh Report of the Committee (17th Lok Sabha) on Wednesday, on "Irregularities in receipt and utilisation of compensation" and "Grossly irregular and manipulated award and execution of work relating to the renovation of the basement at India House, London, leading to undue benefits being extended to the Contractor."
In its recommendations, the Committee has urged for the initiation of criminal proceedings against those involved in such irregularities.
"The Committee have noted from Audit's findings that the Mission took a decision to accept compensation of GBP 90,000 from a property developer without the approval of the Ministry and documented justification.
It also irregularly authorised a private party to receive and retain government receipts amounting to Rs. 78.41 lakh and actions and decisions taken by Mission functionaries were not adequately documented to obscure these gross irregularities," Lok Sabha Secretariat said in a press release on Wednesday.
According to the press release, the Committee noticed open violations of norms and practices, indicating supervisory failure.
"In the other case, the Mission resorted to irregular splitting of works to evade approvals from higher authority and open bidding. It adopted a grossly manipulated process for award of works to allow undue benefits being extended to Contractors.
The Committee have observed that there was open violation of rules and processes which is indicative of supervisory failure and possible collusion between Mission officials and the agencies. Considering these facts, the Committee have recommended that action be taken for initiating criminal proceedings against those involved in such irregularities and the Committee be apprised thereof," the release said.
The PAC, one of India's oldest parliamentary committees, also stressed the urgent need to strengthen audit mechanisms within the Ministry and Missions.
Expressing disappointment to note "the response of the Ministry to the Committee's recommendations in their earlier reports for strong and robust internal audit mechanism within MEA has been very casual," the Committee stated, "In the instant cases as well, the Ministry's response appears being oblivious to the deplorable state of its monitoring revealed by its performance evaluation and monitoring system not detecting any systemic vulnerability in its administrative and financial controls across its 206 Missions/Posts."
The PAC has recommended a special audit of missions be conducted and actions taken accordingly.
"The Committee have desired that the mandate/ terms of reference of internal audit may be extended to include transaction and compliance audit and specific timelines for taking action on the observations of internal audit may also be prescribed," the press release read.
"The Committee is of the view that the irregularities highlighted by Audit point towards prevalence of systemic lapses and subversion of rules in the Missions," it added.
"As the nature of these irregularities is very serious and has grave ramifications in terms of misuse of money of the public exchequer, the Committee has recommended that a special audit of the Missions may be carried out and appropriate action may be taken against defaulters on the basis of findings of such an audit, and the Committee may be apprised thereof," it concluded.