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Meghalaya MLAs travel into trouble

india Updated: Sep 22, 2009 01:28 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times
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The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has accused several Congress legislators in Meghalaya of inflating their travel bills and even claiming money for tours that they had never gone on.

The CAG wrote to the state government on June 3, revealing a “fraudulent payment of TA/LTC (travel allowance and leave travel concession)” of Rs 52.90 lakh (Rs 5.29 million) in 2007-08.

The CAG came up with the figure, examining TA vouchers drawn on 144 travel and LTC claims by legislators, parliamentary secretaries and assembly officials during October 2006 to April 2008.

Seeking “clarification, if any, on the withdrawal of TA for air journeys not performed”, the CAG gave six weeks to the government to furnish a reply, failing which “they (the irregularities) would be documented in the CAG report.”

Topping the list of “defaulters” is Congress legislator and parliamentary secretary Francis P.R. Sangma, whose claims touched Rs 10,29,282 (Rs 1.03 million). The second highest claimant is Congress’ Samuel M. Sangma, with Rs 8,00,755.

So far only one legislator, a member of Meghalaya United Alliance government, T C Lyngdoh refunded Rs 1,20,162 on August 20.

On August 28, the assembly secretariat asked the others to make the refunds in 15 days. Although assembly principal secretary H W T Syiem said, “They have to comply as this issue is non-negotiable”, the deadline was later extended.

The legislators, including Congressman Alexander L Hek, sought more time. “I had last month written to the assembly to furnish the details, promising to pay whatever I owe. But I have not received any official reply,” Hek told HT. Hek, however, did not rule out the possibility of “foul play” by those handling the papers.

Former Congress legislator Clement Marak is sure that he was swindled by his personal assistant. “I have lodged a first information report against him for fraudulently withdrawing the amount in my name,” he said.

The defaulters also include assembly deputy secretary S. Nengnong and joint secretary E.U.S. Lyttan. Between them, the two officials withdrew Rs 1.25 lakh. But Nengnong has already refunded the money.

The CAG revealed 72 cases where the claimants did undertake a journey against air tickets attached to vouchers. But in some of these cases, travel bills were inflated.

But in 48 cases, either the numbers of air tickets was not correct or flight dates were different — meaning, no journey had been undertaken on those tickets.