The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has rapped the Ministry of External Affairs for "inefficient" management of its properties across the world that has cost the exchequer several crores. Criticising the 'Global Estate Management' by the MEA, the CAG, in its latest report, said, "Properties were purchased or developed without assessing the basic requirement and purpose of their acquisition." This, the auditor said, led to blocking of funds with consequential avoidable expenditure.
"The financial implication on this account amounted to Rs 41.47 crore on rents during one year only i.e. 2011-12 besides other incidental expenses of Rs 54.20 crore," it said.
In March 2011, the MEA decided to purchase a property belonging to French Government for establishing India Culture Centre at Paris. The architect, who was engaged by the Indian Mission to design the building, reported on March 28, 2011 that the building was not suitable to be used as a cultural centre as under French regulations, the building required two exits and provision for assembly of a minimum 100 people. The opinion of another architect was obtained who also raised the red flag on same grounds as his predecessor.
"The reports of these architects were ignored and the property was purchased in March 2011 for Rs 30.03 crore. The audit noted that the property was not utilised during three years after its purchase. "Further, the Mission had incurred a recurring expenditure of Rs 1.24 crore per year on providing round-the- clock security to the building," the report said. The Ministry had stated in March this year that the property would require certain modifications/renovation or even total demolition and reconstruction to make it suitable for a cultural centre. A final approval would be sought by the appointed architect-consultant, it had said.