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Kiran Bedi denies inflating bills

delhi Updated: Oct 20, 2011 21:32 IST

Already plagued by internal dissensions, Team Anna plunged into yet another controversy on Thursady with allegations against Kiran Bedi that she charged her hosts full fare on air tickets while availing discounts but the activist claimed there was "no personal" gain.

Allegations were levelled against Bedi, a key member of Team Anna, that she used her gallantry medal to get 75% discount on Air India tickets and then submitted inflated invoices to claim full fare from the organiers who have invited her to the function.

It was also alleged that she claimed business class fare even when she was travelling in economy class.

Reacting to the allegations, Bedi told PTI, "business class travel is part of the invitation/entitlement from the event organizers/corporates I'm asked to speak at. Travelling economy is a choice despite entitlement is to ensure that savings remain with the NGO.

"(There is) no personal gain here. Sorry to disappoint detractors trying real hard to find a smoking gun. However, I accept this kind of coverage as a part of the challenges which being in public life poses," she said adding the money "saved" went to NGO India Vision Foundation run by her.

Team Anna has been turmoil in the recent days following Hazare's flipflop over Prashant Bhushan's advocacy of plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir and resignation of two prominent Core Committee members PV Rajagopal and Rajinder Singh complaining that decisions were not being taken democratically.

There was also dissention in the team regarding the move to launch an anti-Congress campaign in Hisar bypolls and upcoming Assembly elections without proper discussion in the Core Committee.

"I have nothing to hide. Whatever money came from the organisers of functions, it went to the institution," Bedi said adding she was "not a beneficiary" in this case as all the money she got went into her NGOs.

"I get a lot of money through my lectures and royalty on books. I donate it to the NGOs," she later told reporters.

She also claimed that she herself downgraded her travel and even organisers knew about it. "The person is aware that I am downgrading my travel. Organisers appreciate it. They say we appreciate your gesture that you have saved money for the Foundation."

Bedi said the institutions itself offer business class fare to her for attending their functions.

"When the invitation comes I take a decision whether I travel business class or I downgrade myself. I sometimes choose to do so and travel in economy class. The money so saved by travelling economy goes to the Foundation.

"There is no money which I withdraw. The invitation is to Foundation, the cheque is to the Foundation, the withdrawal is from the Foundation and saved money is in Foundation," she said.

She also said when some NGOs invite her and they cannot afford, then she travels to them using the Foundation money.

Thursdays edition of the Indian Express, a national daily had reported that Bedi inflated travel expenses she has been charging NGOs and institutions which invite her for seminars or meetings.

The national daily has said it has in its possession records of bills, invoices and copies of cheques which show that Bedi, who is entitled to a rebate on Air India tickets as a gallantry award winner, pays discount fares but charges her host institutions the full fare. She has also, at times, claimed Business class fare while flying Economy.

The Indian Express has 12 recorded examples of this, some of which date back to 2006 when Bedi was a serving IPS officer. Her last such travel for which an inflated invoice was sent was as recent as September 29.