Castigating the External Affairs Ministry for not maintaining pace of construction of various projects at several missions abroad resulting in idling of funds and cost escalations, Comptroller and Auditor General on Tuesday said the issue continues to be "cause of concern".
"There were substantial delays in construction in the case of five missions ranging between 16 and 45 years, resulting in both idling of funds and consequent cost escalation," it said.
The missions continue to incur "avoidable rental expenditure towards hiring of residential or official accommodation," the CAG said. The five missions include those in Brasilia, Port of Spain and Abuja.
The audit body, in its report presented before Parliament today, also criticised the ministry for "flawed" purchase of property for Indian Chancery and unjustified expenditure on its renovation in Prague ignoring both security and structural
safety aspects, the most serious being its proximity to a major tunneling project.
Noting that the ministry had also incurred extra expenditure on purchase of full fare economy tickets from Air India, CAG report said the ministry "did not comply with instructions of the Ministry of Finance to effect utmost economy in air travel."
"As a result, the ministry incurred considerable additional expenditure on purchase of air tickets for home travel, emergency passages and temporary duty which for the 30 Missions covered by the review, alone estimated to Rs 20.76 crore for the period November 2006 to March 2009," it said.
It also said the High Commission in London incurred an "unfruitful" expenditure of Rs 82.19 lakh on a project for conversion of eight small residential flats into four large apartments to accommodate Representational Grade officers.
Other areas where the audit body found fault with the ministry included outsourcing of visa support services in missions or posts abroad. They questioned the selection of service provider at various missions abroad such as those in London and Milan.