CAG slams Indian High Commission in London for 'arbitrary' visa fee

The Indian High Commission in London had allegedly allowed a service provider to levy a fee at an "arbitrary rate" in handling fast track business visas resulting undue benefit of Rs 10 crore to the private entity, said government auditor CAG.

PTI| Updated: Aug 02, 2016, 18:31 PM IST

New Delhi: The Indian High Commission in London had allegedly allowed a service provider to levy a fee at an "arbitrary rate" in handling fast track business visas resulting undue benefit of Rs 10 crore to the private entity, said government auditor CAG.

In a report tabled in Parliament, it said the service provider, handling visa support service was permitted to collect 25 pounds from each applicant for the fast track business visa in place of the normal charge of 7.70 pounds, from 2010 to 2015 that resulted in a benefit.

"Permitting the service provider to handle fast track business visa with a service charge at an arbitrary rate (GBP 25) in place of the normal service charge of GBP 7.7 resulted in an undue benefit of Rs 10.72 crore to the service provider during the period March 2010 to February 2015," the CAG said.

The High Commission had entered into an agreement in 2008 with VF Services (UK) Ltd for various visa support services.

The CAG said the Mission did not go for any negotiation, estimation of cost and market survey before allowing the service provider to collect GBP 25.

It said the new service provider had agreed to render the same service at GBP 7.44 with effect from March 2015.

The report also criticised the Indian Embassy in Washington for its "failure" to comply with laid down procurement process while awarding annual maintenance contract of IT equipment to a "dubious" firm and consequent "irregular" payments if Rs 1.36 crore to it.

Citing one example of alleged irregularities, the CAG said an amount of USD 1,56,450 (Rs 97.94 lakh) was paid to M/s ATC from May 2012-March 2015 towards annual maintenance cost of two servers and 16 desktops.

It said "the price of two servers purchased in 2007 was USD 6,118. Thus, the present cost of annual maintenance of servers works out to 705 percent of the price of the servers."

The report also said "incorrect" adoption of prevailing official exchange rate by High Commission of India in Ottawa and its Consulates in Toronto and Vancouver in June 2010 instead of the exchange rate for visa fees as required under the manual and unwarranted downward revision of service fees for "renunciation" of Indian citizenship and penalty on misuse of passports in March 2013 resulted in less collection of revenue of Rs 27.01 crore.