The external affairs ministry drew flak from the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament for failing to manage its estates, leading to a huge loss to the exchequer. MPs, cutting across party lines, have criticised the ministry for renting estates worth crores of rupees and then not using them.
In the last meeting of the PAC on Monday, the panel found that the ministry also had a many unutilsed properties, even as the rentals soared from Rs 233 crore annually in 2004 to Rs 276 crore annually in 2013.
Over years, panel members have sought to know the status of buying properties abroad to which the stock answer has always been that “the search is on for suitable properties”.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s Kirit Somaiya questioned the utility of the meeting as the MEA’s answers have been the same over years.
MPs from across parties slammed the ministry over its property usage. “In my 31 years, I have never felt so disappointed”, PAC chief KV Thomas said.
Biju Janata Dal’s Bhartruhari Mahtab pointed out that over the years, the MEA has not been able to increase the share of owned properties in its total estates.
“From 2007 to 2012, MEA’s rented properties stood at around 77% of its entire estate,” he said during the meeting.
Members also pointed out that in Paris the ministry bought a house in the heart of the city for a whopping Rs 30 crore to set up a cultural centre, but later found it unsuitable.
The panel will call foreign secretary Sujata Singh to provide a detailed explanation on these issues in February as the ministry’s reply was found unsuitable.