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A blast from the past for Somnath

LOK SABHA Speaker Somnath Chatterjee has been accused of incurring huge "unauthorised expenses" during his trips abroad as the chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (1996-99). The speaker?s office has questioned the allegations saying it ?smacks of malice?.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2006 01:14 IST

LOK SABHA Speaker Somnath Chatterjee has been accused of incurring huge "unauthorised expenses" during his trips abroad as the chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (1996-99). The speaker’s office has questioned the allegations saying it “smacks of malice”.

A BBC report says the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has reprimanded Chatterjee for drawing "huge tour advances and not submitting valid evidence of expenditure" during that period. Citing the CAG report, the BBC says in 1996-97 alone, Chatterjee drew $8,525 over his entitlement without furnishing evidence of expenditure.

According to the BBC, the CAG report referred to Chatterjee and the then managing director of WBIDC D.P. Patra.

It said: "Scrutiny of hotel bills of the chairman and MD… relating to their stay in Israel, Germany, France and UK from September 8-22, 1998, revealed that apart from room rentals, an expenditure of $1,072 was made towards minibar, bar, laundry and tobacco."

In its reaction, the Speaker's office questioned the veracity of the BBC report. "No attempt was made by the reporter concerned to get in touch with us before sending the despatch… It smacks of malice," sources in the Speaker's office said. "The timing of the news report raises eyebrows."

They pointed out that the BBC report does not give any details about the CAG report with regard to the volume or the year in which it was submitted. The BBC only says the report was tabled in the West Bengal Assembly. Officials said CAG reports are usually related to recent events or issues.

Sources in the Speaker's office said the BBC report spoke about two people in the same breath and the fact is that Chatterjee, who is accused of running a tobacco bill, gave up smoking much before the period mentioned. When asked, they did not rule out taking "appropriate" action, legal or otherwise, against the reporter and the BBC after verifying the said report.

First Published: Mar 17, 2006 01:14 IST