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Air Travel bills of two Union Ministers who between them made 28 official trips over four months this year are not being cleared because they flew airlines other than Air India.
Under government rules, air travel for official trips have to be only on Air India. An exception is made only if the bill is accompanied by a certificate of non-availability of seat or the person is able to provide documentary proof of the urgency of attending an official meeting.
The Financial Advisor and Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has withheld clearance of bills raised for official trips of Union Minister D V Sadananda Gowda and his predecessor, former Minister of State (Independent Charge), Gen (retd) V K Singh since they flew airlines other than Air India.
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These bills are for 28 official trips between May and August this year — 11 trips were made by V K Singh and 17 by Gowda. The total amount involved, sources said, is around Rs 44 lakh. V K Singh is now Minister of State for External Affairs.
On behalf of the MoSPI, Balmer Lawrie Tours & Travels books the tickets for official trips of Ministers and is later reimbursed by the Ministry.
These were the 11 trips Singh made: Delhi to Kolkata (May 7); Kolkata to Delhi (May 7); Delhi to Indore (May 14) and Indore to Delhi (May 15) (wife Bharti Singh accompanied him); Delhi to Mumbai (June 3); Mumbai to Delhi (June 3); Delhi to Varanasi (June 4); Tirupati to Hyderabad (June 6) (with wife Bharti Singh); Chennai to Delhi (June 21); Delhi to Varanasi (July 1); and, Varanasi to Delhi (July 1).
The 17 trips made by Gowda were: Bangalore to Mangalore (July 8); Mangalore to Bangalore (July 9); Delhi to Bangalore (July 13); Bangalore to Delhi (July 15); Delhi to Bangalore (July 22); Delhi to Bangalore (July 26); Delhi to Bangalore (July 29); Bangalore to Mangalore (July 30); Mangalore to Bangalore (July 31), Delhi to Bangalore (August 5); Delhi to Bangalore (August 12); Delhi to Madurai (August 17); Madurai to Chennai (August 18); Chennai to Bangalore (August 18); Bangalore to Mangalore (August 20); Mangalore to Delhi (August 22); Delhi to Bangalore (August 24).
The Sunday Express has learnt that the MoSPI sent Expenditure Secretary Ashok Lavasa a letter which stated that proposals of the Minister to travel by airlines other than Air India had not been approved by the Financial Advisor of the Ministry. The letter sought advice to deal with such cases.
But when he was asked about it, Lavasa said, “I am not aware of it.”
MoSPI Secretary T C Anant declined to comment. “I have no role in clearing the bills of Ministers, so I don’t want to comment on it,” he said.
MoSPI Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor S K Singh, the officer who has not cleared these bills, also declined to comment.
Both Gowda and Singh did not respond to calls or text messages sent by The Sunday Express.