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3 IAS officers' lavish Paris trip on public money exposed by Chandigarh audit report
4/11/2024 10:38:56 PM
CHANDIGARH, Apr 11: Business class tickets, luxe five-star hotel rooms and unaccounted expenditure - an audit has revealed shocking irregularities by three senior IAS officers who travelled to France on an official trip in 2015, raising questions about the misuse of public money.
The three bureaucrats are Vijay Dev, then adviser to the Chandigarh administrator, Anurag Agarwal, then Chandigarh home secretary and Vikram Dev Dutt, then secretary (personnel). At the time, former Punjab Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki was holding additional charge of Chandigarh.
In 2015, the Chandigarh administration received an invitation from Foundation Le Corbusier in Paris for a meeting to mark the 50th Anniversary of Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, who prepared the master plan for Chandigarh. The administration nominated four participants for the event. The Home Ministry's clearance was sought for Vijay Dev, Vikram Dev Dutt and Anurag Agarwal. The tour programme was drawn up and approved. It turned out that the officers sanctioned each other's tours - Dev's trip was approved by Dutt and Dutt's by Dev. Dev also approved the programme of Agarwal.
The report by Director General of Audit (Central), Chandigarh, says the invitation was originally meant for one officer - the Chief Architect of Chandigarh - but three secretary-level officers went instead, that too at the cost of the taxpayer. The trip, the report noted, was not sponsored by the host foundation and all expenses were paid by the Chandigarh administration. The officers, it said, also bypassed the rule that no foreign travel exceeding five days should be approved without a nod from a screening committee. This trip was for seven days. One point highlighted in the audit report is how the officers, without any approval, expanded a one-day tour to seven days.
The Cost
For each of the three officers, business class tickets cost Rs 1.77 lakh. The audit reports states that hotels were changed too. "Initially, the Intercontinental Hotel Paris Avenue was booked from 12 June, 2015 to 18 june, 2015 (07 days) for Rs 4,39,168 in r/o Advisor to the Administrator UT, Chandigarh and Rs 3,42,954 in r/o Secretary Personnel-cum- Secretary Urban Planning and Home Secretary-cum-Secretary Tourism. Later, the hotel was changed to Hotel Le Royal Monceau, Paris from 12 June, 2015 to 18 june, 2015 for Rs 9,10,364 In r/o Advisor to the Administrator UT, Chandigarh and Rs 4,43,498 in r/o Secretary Personnel-cum-Secretary Urban Planning and Home Secretary- cum-Secretary Tourism," the audit report said. This change cost over Rs 6.7 lakh. On the reason behind the change, Agarwal told The Indian Express in 2022, "I don't remember exactly… the then Advisor wanted a location closer to the Arc De Triomphe… It is quite possible that we booked a hotel, and it was changed due to locational issues."
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