Thursday, August 7, 2014

India sends ` 30 cr down Paris drain


By Rezaul Hasan Laskar in New Delhi
A PROPERTY bought by the external affairs ministry in the heart of the French capital for a whopping ` 30.03 crore for setting up an Indian Cultural Centre has been lying unutilised for the past three years as the structure does not conform to French safety and building regulations.
Significantly, the MEA went ahead with the purchase of the building — located at 3 Avenue du Lowendal in the centrally located 7th district of Paris — despite being advised by two experts not to do so.
The ministry’s financial woes related to the property did not end with the purchase. The Indian Embassy has been incurring a recurring expenditure of ` 1.24 crore a year on providing round- the- clock security to the building.
The latest report by the Comptroller and Auditor General on “ Global estate management by the Ministry of External Affairs” has slammed the ministry for the expenses incurred on the structure.
The ministry decided in March 2011 to buy the property belonging to the French government to establish the Cultural Centre. An architect engaged by the embassy reported on March 28, 2011 that the building “ was not suitable to be used as a cultural centre”, the CAG report said.
“ Under French regulations, the building required two exits and provision for the assembly of a minimum of 100 people.
Both conditions were lacking in the property identified for purchase,” the report said.
Another architect, whose opinion was sought by the embassy, too “ reiterated the unsuitability on same ground”. The CAG report said: “ The reports of the architects were ignored and the property was purchased in March 2011 for ` 30.03 crore.
Audit noted that the property was not utilized during the three years after its purchase.” In March this year, the External Affairs Ministry said the building would require certain modifications and renovation “ or even total demolition and reconstruction to make it suitable for a cultural centre”. Final approval for the renovation would be sought by the architect- consultant appointed by the Indian mission after finalizing plans and drawings.
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