Already in the thick of controversies, Team Anna member Kiran Bedi on Tuesday faced problems from within when one of the founder members of her NGO managing her trips quit the trust claiming his reputation has been tarnished.
Anil Bal, proprietor of Flywell Travel and a trustee of India Vision Foundation run by Bedi, said the activist's defence on overcharging her hosts has conveyed the wrong impression among public that he was responsible for inflated invoices after issuing cheaper tickets.
"In view of what has happened which unnecessarily tarnished my reputation I have decided to resign as trustee of IVF with immediate effect and have also requested IVF to engage another travel agent for their travel needs.
"Amount to the credit of IVF as on date in our records is being refunded to IVF by crossed cheque to close the account with us," Bal said in a statement.
Bedi allegedly overcharged hosts by inflating her travel bills and that she availed discounts on air tickets using her gallantry medal. She defended herself saying she did not personally benefit and that the money thus saved went to the foundation.
The former IPS officer, while offering to return the excess money thus collected, said Bal was handling the travel account and has been asked to return the money.
"Some newspapers have even gone ahead to name me as the treasurer of IVF handling Bedi's travel. Certain TV channels have shown the pro-forma invoices to say that my company has deliberately inflated the invoices. All this has greatly damaged my reputation," he said.
Bal, who knows Bedi for the last 25 years and has been associated with her in various social projects, claimed his firm has no interaction with any of the organisations for whom Bedi undertakes the travel and have no knowledge of the understanding they have with the foundation.
"I and my travel agency did not ever issue any inflated demand for payment of any amount in excess of the actual fare payable for the ticket issued according to the class of travel and that I never obtained from anyone any amount in excess of that which was payable for the ticket issued," the statement quoted Bal as saying.
On the resolution passed by the trustees asking him to refund the excess amount, Bal said he agreed with the first part of it concerning future travel arrangements but found the order given to travel agent to refund the excess amount collected as "bizarre".
"Credit balance in the IVF account with us belongs to IVF and can only be refunded to IVF and cannot be refunded to any third party as we do not have transactions with these parties.
Secondly as mentioned above we do not know who these parties are and what arrangements IVF had with them concerning Bedi's travel," he said. He said he had followed the rules and has done nothing wrong either in issuing tickets or in invoicing for the same.
"We repeat the pro-forma invoice issued is no invoice of the actual ticket issued but merely confirmation of applicable fare for the sector and class mentioned therein," he said.
He also claimed that the accounts of the travel agency were audited on regular basis and that they have filed returns with Income Tax and Service Tax authorities. "As of date there is no demand from any of these authorities," he claimed.
Explaining his business, Bal said his agency provides travel services to many clients including Bedi.
He said her office would contact us for getting applicable air fare to sector she intends to travel and they used to respond to these queries by issuing pro-forma invoice mentioning the sector of travel, class of travel, applicable conditions, our service charge and applicable taxes.
Bal said it was worth noting that this pro-forma invoice does not bear any number, ticket number, flight details and is not addressed to any party. It just conveys applicable fare for sector and class mentioned therein.
"Once the foundation gave the flight details, class of travel and type of fare for Bedi's travel, booking is accepted and card prepared. After the confirmation of seats, tickets are issued and invoice is generated for actual value of the ticket with our service charge and applicable taxes.
"The said invoice with ticket is then delivered to IVF office and acknowledgement taken," he said.
Every fortnight, he said, they issue statement of account carrying forward debit and credit balance of the previous fortnight, tickets issued and payment received during the fortnight. "The said statement also shows debit/credit balance as on date," he said.
The due payment of tickets is received by cheque either issued by IVF or by any party for whom Bedi has undertaken the travel.
"Third party cheques are mostly received through IVF office but sometimes the cheques/drafts are received directly to our office. The receipts of payment are issued in favour of IVF and amount is credited to IVF account," he added.