Mumbai: Over four months after media pointed out anomalies concerning a docket of Maharashtra’s top bureaucrats to the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual 2018 summit, the state government has decided to initiate a probe into the matter. A bill of expenses presented before the Maharashtra Industries Minister had asserted that the total cost incurred by the exchequer for this five-day junket amounted to a whopping ₹7.63 crore.
Industries Minister Subhash Desai has now confirmed that a panel led by Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta will probe the bill of expenses presented by the bureaucrats. Desai also said that the bills have not been cleared by the accounts department and further action will be taken only after a detailed inquiry. Interestingly, the delegation was led by incumbent Maharashtra Additional Chief Secretary Satish Gavai. Gavai, along with four other bureaucrats continue to retain top positions within the state machinery despite such allegations.
It has also been pointed out that the panel probing the matter will look into why an American agency was hired to make travel and lodging arrangements for the delegation’s visit to the WEF summit in Davos, Switzerland. In fact, a report by Mayuresh Ganpatye of Mirror Now had earlier pointed out that one bill which was presented to the Industries Minister in March of this year was attributed to one “Premier Motor Company”. Upon investigation, it was found that the registered address for this company was in California. However, a closer look revealed that the mentioned address was a private residence and not an office building with any connections to a motor company.
The summit in Davos was attended by global leaders, including American President Donald Trump, French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Candian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Isreali Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu among others. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis were also in attendance. Public records reveal that junkets sponsored by the state government to the annual WEF summit in 2015 cost the exchequer ₹89 lakh in 2015 and ₹1.93 crore as compared to ₹7.63 crore in 2018.
Further inquiry into the matter will establish whether public funds were misused or siphoned off by top bureaucrats who are currently in a position to run the state of Maharashtra which houses India’s economic capital. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is yet to comment on this contentious matter.