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Now another scam!

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If bureaucrats make money on the sides, it is because they are emboldened by their political bosses doing likewise. Initially it was reported by the...

If bureaucrats make money on the sides, it is because they are emboldened by their political bosses doing likewise. Initially it was reported by the media that two top PSU officials had submitted bloated bills to claim their leave travel concession (LTC). One of the worthies who needed to travel just over 500km, the distance from Delhi to Jaipur and back, apparently ended up travelling more than 28,884 km, the distance from Delhi to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and back, and as he went to Jaipur too, a new route had to be devised! He took off from Jaipur, landed in Mumbai and from there flew to Sao Paulo with a stopover or two as there is no direct flight from Mumbai to Sao Paulo, and finally reached Delhi via Mumbai! There is no evidence yet of his having undertaken the odyssey, but the CBI is investigating.

The question meanwhile is how far government and PSU employees are going to fleece the exchequer in the name of availing themselves of LTC. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is learnt to be verifying this particular case. What is surprising is that when details of this circuitous trip emerged, those who should have scrutinized the claim let him off. Now the CVC has ordered a re-examination of this case.

In Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) where more than 100 officials are facing probe for falsifying LTC claims, one senior officer responsible for clearing LTC payments, herself claimed that she had travelled from Port Blair to Mumbai via Dubai; and the claim was approved by the SCI without any questions being asked. This particular officer claimed Rs. 232, 653 in 2009 for the journey for herself, her husband and their daughter. On August 14, the CVC had asked the CBI to probe the scam.

Incidentally, among those facing probe are officials of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Ordnance Factory Board and at least 150 employees of the SCI. The CVC has found gross irregularities also in the way fake tickets were generated to show claims. According to sources, nine Rajya Sabha MPs are allegedly involved in inflated travel bills scam. CVC investigation has found that the Rajya Sabha MPs have claimed fake reimbursements for business flights which were not taken. The probe revealed how the MPs claimed flying business class in all-economy flights and also submitted business class boarding passes for flights that were never taken. Sources also said that a JD (U) leader is allegedly the biggest offender.
Now the CVC has ordered an investigation into the claims. The Rajya Sabha has sent letters to Air India and Jet Airways seeking information about inflated bills. During the investigation several fictitious ticket numbers not matching serial numbers used in Air India were found. Sources say a Bihar MP reportedly generated 8 tickets worth Rs 1, 50,000 each, and used the boarding card used by two other passengers. The seat allotted to him was 15C, an economy class ticket, but on paper it showed up as a business class ticket. It all began when the police arrested a person with over 600 blank boarding cards at the Kolkata airport. This was attributed to the CVC finding that Rajya Sabha Secretariat employees, in connivance with travel agents, were misusing LTC privileges.
The Rajya Sabha Secretariat shortlisted seven suspected cases and forwarded them to the vigilance department, which, on further verification with Air India, found that on paper business class seats were allocated in the 12th, 15th and 18th rows but the flight only had business class seats till row 7. Official Air India fares were Rs 1, 21,670 but they have been inflated on paper to Rs 1,35,610 for claim. Moreover, names of passengers on boarding cards do not feature in flight manifests.
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