New Delhi: Key member of Team Anna, Kiran Bedi, Thursday, dismissed allegations of any wrongdoing by way of inflating travel expenses that NGOs and institutions reimburse to her for attending seminars or meetings organised by them.
The matter came to the fore after a newspaper reported that Bedi gets discount tickets - as a gallantry award winner- on Air India, but she charges her hosts the full fare and at times also claims Business Class fare while flying Economy.
In an apparent bid to clear air, Bedi convened a press conference in which she said that she has in no way personally gained by the practice as the money is deposited in the account of her NGO, India Vision Foundation.
“I get many speaking invitations where the organisers offer Business Class air fare. When such an invitation comes, I take a decision that I will travel Economy and save the money. I don’t take any cheque myself; the money is saved for the Foundation.”
“I tell the organisers about it. The organisers appreciate it. The money remains with the Foundation, there are many NGOs which call me but can’t afford travel expenses, and I use the money saved for travel for such causes.”
“I save for the larger good. Today I have to give explanation for my honesty. I have nothing to hide, it’s all very clear. Whatever money came has remained with the foundation. Organisers used to say in public that I set an example,” she said, adding, “Is it wrong to save?”
Kiran Bedi stressed that she didn’t get any financial benefit out of it and the saving is contributed to the ‘cause’.
She said, “When someone is in public life, it is normal for me to be questioned like this. I take this as one more challenge, that’s it. But tell me one instance where I got Economy and I used Foundation’s money to upgrade myself. Whatever I earn from speaking and royalty from my books, all go the Foundation.”
With regards to the finances of her Foundation, she said, “Every year we are audited.”
On whether she has talked to Anna Hazare on the issue, Kiran Bedi said that she has passed on her clarification to one of Anna’s key aides as the Gandhian is observing ‘maun vrat’. “I have also talked to Arvind Kejriwal,” she added.
As per the newspaper report, Bedi has been carrying on with the practice from as far back as 2006 when she was a serving IPS officer - her last such travel with inflated invoice was as recent as September 29 this year. All the reimbursement cheques were credited in the account of Bedi’s NGO.
As an example, the newspaper has furnished the details for her recent trip to Hyderabad and Chennai.
This year on September 29 this year, Bedi flew Delhi-Hyderabad on Air India (AI 560), then Hyderabad-Chennai (AI 546), in Economy class. The next day, she took a flight back to Delhi (AI 539).
She paid a total fare of Rs 17,134, but the invoice was generated for Rs 73,117 (payment is pending). While Bedi flew form Delhi to Hyderabad, onward to Chennai and then back to Delhi, the fares being claimed are for Delhi-Hyderabad-Delhi (Economy) and Delhi-Chennai-Delhi (Business class).
March 06, 2009: Flew Delhi-Mumbai-Delhi (IC 688, IC 605) on discounted tickets. Fare: Rs 12,483. Bill submitted for/amount received: Rs 32,495.