By Utpal Borpujari
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has come down heavily on the Tourism Ministry for giving a go by to financial propriety and failure to monitor unsanctioned expenditure in the Government of India Tourist Office (GOITO) in New Yoek.
Among the irregularities noticed by CAG is the use of a corporate credit card issued to the assistant director of the office, which was used to buy things worth $432,064.20 (Rs 1.90 crore) for “exhibitions” but curiously included items “normally intended for personal use”, such as groceries, toys and footwear, worth at least $3,089.49 (Rs 1.36 lakh).
While the Civil Accounts Manual (CAM) of the government stipulates that no payment should be made in excess of budget allotment unless an advance from the Contingency Fund covers it, the GOITO in New York headed by a regional director tasked with promoting diverse Indian tourism products made irregular spending in doling out advertisement to certain publications.
CAG, going through the spending details, found that the GOITO incurred a liability of Rs 5.59 crore over and above the budget allotment of Rs 11 crore sanctioned by the Ministry for 2006-07 in contravention of the provisions of the CAM.
Out of this, GOITO paid Rs 4.71 crore in 2007-08 out of that year’s budget, while a liability of Rs 88 lakh was yet to be discharged as of May 2008, when the CAG went through the accounts.
What has irked CAG is that there was no internal audit of the spending by the ministry, which it has said is indicative of “poor controls”.
Further, while the annual action plan (AAP) of GOITO, approved by the ministry, had an earmarked budget for exhibitions/trade shows was Rs 90 lakh, the actual expenditure was Rs 2.31 crore, which was spent without the ministry’s sanction.
CAG also found that the assistant director of the office, functioning as the regional director, sanctioned expenditure and entered into agreements with agencies beyond delegated powers. In several cases, invoices were split, in contravention of rules, to bring them within the ambit of the delegated powers of the regional director.
In another instance, payments to the extent of $ 21,570 were made to agencies without vouchers or supporting records of justification and even the original invoices from the firms concerned were not available on record.
Quite interestingly, $14,225 was paid to a firm for acquisition of a domain name www.incredibleindiarewards.org. however, there was no evidence of such a registration or link to the domain having been created, CAG has said.
Citing one more example of irregularities, CAG has said that while DENTSU America, Inc was the agency specifically engaged by GOITO for planning, recommending, creating and arranging advertisements on its behalf, $753,860.13 – roughly Rs 3.32 crore – were paid for advertisements placed directly with various other agencies without utilizing DENTSU’s services during 2006-07.