Patna: At least six public sector companies and corporations in Bihar distributed gifts such as wrist watches, briefcases, cameras and mobile phones to members of the legislative assembly and council, senior bureaucrats and press reporters, which cost the exchequer Rs. 2.06 crore, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has mentioned in its audit report.
The report, which was tabled in the assembly on Tuesday, has thrown light on the mismanagement in public sector enterprises.
“Scrutiny of records revealed that six government companies purchased gift items valued at Rs. 2.06 crore during 2014 to 2016 as per Board of Directors resolution, and distributed the same to members of legislative assembly/council, press reporters, senior officers,” the report reads.
Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam (BRPNL) tops the list as it shelled out Rs 51.6 lakh to purchase 450 wrist watches in 2014 and 350 mobiles in 2015. Bihar State Beverages Corporation bought and distributed 400 briefcases, same as Bihar Urban infrastructure Development Corporation in 2015.
However, mobile phones seem to be the favourite gift items as three of the six companies purchased and gifted 1,038 high-end phones between 2014 and 2015.
When the CAG asked about the rationale of using public money for buying gifts, the management of the Bihar State Beverages Corporation replied that the expenditure was incurred on the direction of the department and duly approved by the board of directors.
However, the CAG noted that the management’s reply was unacceptable as the expenditure violated the canons of financial propriety and was not in furtherance of the objectives of the company.
The matter was reported to the companies and the government in September 2017 but the CAG did not receive replies till March 2018.
The report pertains to the period when Nitish Kumar was heading the Grand Alliance government with support from RJD and Congress and raises questions about the lack of action against such enterprises.
Pictures of MLAs and MLCs holding gifts were circulated in the media during the 2016 monsoon session.
However, the then road construction minister Tejashwi Yadav, whose department distributed mobile handsets as gifts, had defended the decision. “It’s a courtesy and nothing else. Every member of the House is not well-equipped. Some of them come from poor backgrounds too,” he had said.