Sunday, April 17, 2011

HPCL lavishes $45,000 in gifts and perks to MPs

Titan watches, shawls, countless taxi and restaurant bills, as well as
extended stays in the country’s finest hotels. These are some of the
perks enjoyed by some of India’s MPs, courtesy Hindustan Petroleum,
the country’s second largest state-owned refiner. PETROWATCH learns
HPCL last year spent Rs21.6 lakhs ($45,000) on the MPs, most of them
members of the influential Standing Committee on Petroleum & Natural
Gas. All the expenses, seen by this report on a detailed HPCL
spreadsheet, are meticulously documented, and apparently routine. Like
on June 30 last year, when HPCL cleared a bill of Rs5.38 lakhs
($11,700) to the Taj hotel in Mumbai for visiting standing committee
members. Or for that matter, on July 5 last year, when HPCL again paid
Rs3.74 lakhs ($8100) to the Taj to cover the stay of ‘Hon’ble MPs and
Govt. Officials.’ Delhi’s five-star Ashok hotel also gets a mention,
when on April 24 last year HPCL released Rs1.49 lakh ($3200) to pay
for parliamentary hospitality. Visits to the Kerala backwaters
likewise figure in the name of parliamentary democracy. On May 24,
HPCL paid a Rs2 lakh ($4300) demand draft (transaction number:
35323310) to an unidentified ‘GM Kerala’ to spend on parliamentary
committee hospitality. Strangely, HPCL insiders tell us no ‘GM Kerala’
position exists within the company. The list goes on, from the sublime
to the ridiculous, like a Rs12,280 ($270) payment on June 14 last year
to the distinctly non-political sounding Mangalore-based Stanley
Studio & Video and Rs20,400 ($440) to the equally non-political Elite
Arts, both on behalf of undisclosed standing committee MPs. Small
amounts they might be, but they go some way in explaining why India’s
politicians and bureaucrats are loathe to privatise the state-owned
oil behemoths they control.PETROWATCH

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