110 DAYS, Rs 25 lakh. That’s the number of days spent on official travel in India and abroad by BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary from January to June this year, and the amount he claimed from the cricket board as “TA/DA” reimbursement. During the same period, acting president C K Khanna and acting treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry took home Rs 6 lakh and Rs 15 lakh, respectively, in similar benefits.
The BCCI travel policy allows its office-bearers $750 per day overseas and Rs 20,000 in India — apart from other perks such five-star accommodation, vehicle for local travel and first-class air-travel. An executive assistant, who travels with BCCI officials abroad, gets $350 per day.
The Indian Express accessed a detailed half-yearly official expense sheet, and emails of foreign exchange and air travel approvals, of the BCCI, which show that the board spent nearly Rs 1 crore on official engagements of its top three office-bearers, of which 50 per cent was spent on TA/DA allowance.
To put that figure in perspective, the world’s richest sports body, Fifa, paid its council members $150 per day during the recent football World Cup in Russia.
The records show that last month, secretary Choudhary got $6,000 for his 8-day trip to the UK, after the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) approved the BCCI CFO’s mail that listed the per diem entitlement.
“Received revised ticket for AS (acting secretary). Leaving India on 26 June 2018 and returning on 5 July 2018 (leaving UK on 4 July 2018). FX (forex) for 8 days @750 USD = 6,000 USD … Seek your approval,” the CFO wrote.
CoA chairman Vinod Rai had recently raised the issue of allowances paid to office-bearers, and linked it to the reluctance displayed by office-bearers to implement the Lodha reforms. Speaking to The Indian Express, he had said, “I did not ever believe the vested interest would be so deep. To take on the might of the apex court means running the risk of contempt of court. There must be something very deep… since they are taking this big a risk.”
Rai had said: “A Virat Kohli gets $125 per diem while the executive assistant of BCCI office-bearers gets $350. How is this fair, office-bearers can decide how much they should get but how can executive assistant of office-bearer get more than players.”
The office-bearers, however, link Rai’s remarks to the Supreme Court hearing on the BCCI case on August 8, when the bench is expected to finalise the board’s constitution.
Speaking to The Indian Express, secretary Choudhary said: “Why is it that this happens only when the date of hearing (on the Lodha reforms) is close? Why is it that similar details of the CEO and the CFO are not being released? And the so-called meetings which he (Rai) holds… the amount of money spent on that, has it ever been calculated? Somebody who has been hounding people for crossing the age of 70, how can anyone attach any morality or ethics to a man who is himself over 70 and is going on without batting an eyelid?”
According to him, the allowances were proposed by BCCI CEO Rahul Johri at a meeting in July 2016 and approved by the CoA this year. “Two months ago, the rates were revised for everyone, and issued by none other than Vinod Rai. When he revised and issued it, the DA for office-bearers remained $750. In fact, it has remained constant for the last two years without any change. So what is he cribbing about?” he said.
Treasurer Chaudhry also questioned the timing of Rai’s statement. “This has clearly become a pattern. Such kind of statistics and other misleading information are selectively leaked before every date of hearing in the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Everybody seems to know the reason why,” he alleged.
Both of them pointed out that cricketers in the Indian team have their annual contracts — Rs 7 crore per annum in the top bracket — apart from their match fees. Treasurer Chaudhry and president Khanna did not travel abroad on the BCCI’s expense in those six months.
In June, the CoA chairman had asked secretary Choudhary to justify his trip to Bhutan. “It is telling that you alone, among the three office bearers, have undertaken 32 days of foreign travel in barely five and a half months … you have travelled for 110 days in this period as against only 32 days by the Acting President and 69 days by the Treasurer,” Rai had pointed out.
The spread sheet shows that the secretary travelled to Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Vadodara, Bengaluru, Cape Town, Christchurch, Kuala Lumpur, Kabul and Bhutan for various assignments ranging from selection meetings, the IPL auction, court hearings, interaction with government officials and to witness Test matches.
There are some within the BCCI administration, too, who feel that the top office-bearers want to attend all the meetings since they are very “profitable” outings.
“This is the problem with the honorary system. The Lodha reforms draws a clear line between professionals and officials. The Supreme Court has ordered that the day-to-day management of the BCCI should be conducted by a CEO and his team of six professional managers, who in turn will work under the apex council. Officials should take a policy decision and keep away from every minor meeting,” said a BCCI official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.