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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

LTC fraud stink reaches Rajya Sabha, 9 MPs under scanner

NEW DELHI: At least nine Rajya Sabhamembers have been found to have submitted inflated flight tickets in the widening racket of government employees and MPs submitting fake or inflated flight tickets, even as numerous Parliamentarians have been appealing to secretariats of their respective Houses to examine their flight tickets fearing fraud.

The fraud and forgery in leave travel concession(LTC) by government officials and flight tickets by MPs — exposed in a series of reports by TOI over the last few days — also rocked the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday with the opposition demanding a detailed probe into the LTC scam.

At least nine Rajya Sabha MPs inflated travel bills over the past several months. An internal probe by the secretariat found that six MPs used fake or inflated tickets from Air India (AI) to claim reimbursement. AI is believed to have confirmed to the RS secretariat that it has started a vigilance probe into the claims. The alleged inflated bills of other three MPs were from Jet Airways, which was yet to respond, sources say.

An MP from Bihar is believed to have submitted several return tickets of Rs 1.35 lakh for trips to Port Blair. Sources said that the racket of inflated bills by MPs is far more widespread than what is now known in public.

That the racket is far more widespread have been emerging over the last few days since TOI started reporting on the scandal in LTC and flight tickets of MPs. Several MPs are believed to have contacted the secretariat of both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha expressing doubts if their flight bills are inflated. Many are beginning to informally blame their personal staff for possible fraud.

Starting August 22, TOI has been reporting how government officials across departments and PSUs have been inflating LTC allowance from government. In Rajya Sabha secretariat, ordnance factory board (OFB), and Shipping Corporation hundreds of employees have submitted either inflated or forged bills. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has now asked the CBI to begin a criminal probe.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the BJP demanded an exhaustive investigation into the LTC scam. Speaking during Zero Hour, BJP MP Basavaraj Patil said that lakhs and crores of rupees are involved in the LTC scam. "The nation should know what steps have been taken in this case...How much money is involved and who all are involved in this scam?" he said, demanding a thorough probe. The BJP member said false travel claims were made by central government and public sector employees through fake tickets for travel on state-run AI.

Six hundred fake AI tickets have been detected while another 400 SpiceJet tickets have also been traced, he said. He said there are cases where business class tickets have also been issued to secretary rank officers in flights where there are no business classes.

The cost of such tickets even for Andaman & Nicobar islands are said to be running into lakhs of rupees ranging from Rs 1.05 lakh to Rs 2.10 lakh and the matter has been referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), he said.

Deputy chairman P J Kurien said the government should take note and then respond while a large number of BJP members associated with the demand for a stringent action against those claiming fraudulent LTC claims.

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