US lawmaker quits over spending tax money; is India watching?

One of the youngest congressman Aron Schock has quit over financial misdeeds

GN Bureau | March 18, 2015


#us   #congressman   #public money   #tax payer   #MPs  

A lawmaker in the US has resigned after revelations that he was spending tax payers money on redecorating his office and also undertaking tours. However, these kinds of resignations rarely happen in the world’s largest democracy – India.

Aaron Schock, 33, is the third-youngest member of the current Congress, has been forced to resign. Schock’s apparent irregularities in reporting his travel and expenses had made him a target for the media and critics.

Last month, The Washington Post had reported about the expansive office redesign modeled after the British TV show. The interior designer offered the services for free, and that prompted liberal watchdog groups to allege that it was an inappropriate gift. Schock paid  $40,000 from his personal finances to cover the cost. Later it was revealed that he had uses private charter planes, concert ticket purchases, trips overseas and other forms of travel.

When a member of Congress moves into an office, the bare essentials are provided by the House of Representatives. Furniture and computers come from other offices. New members are entitled to a new paint in a limited number of colors. Additional decorations must come out of the lawmaker’s pocket. The office of Schock was themed like a room from hit tv serial Downtown Abbey. It had decorations like Pheasant feathers and a bust of Abraham Lincoln.

He was expected to be examined by the Office of Congressional Ethics but Schock sought to stop it by resigning and one politician said “I think that what he realized is that he did not want to drag his staff and friends and supporters through an investigation where they’d have to hire lawyers and might get subpoenaed.”

While he has yet to comment about his resignation on social media, Schock has been very busy documenting his travels around the world on official and unofficial business.

Examine the similar instance in Indian context. It was disclosed last year that the government ws spending about Rs 8 lakh a day on providing five-star accommodation to 92 parliamentarians in New Delhi. The list provided by the Lok Sabha secretariat in response to an RTI query includes minister of state and singer-turned-politician Babul Supriyo, who has been staying at Hotel Ashok for the past seven months. All these MPs have already been allotted a government house.

A book on Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLAD) throws light on some worrying trends in the implementation of this scheme. This includes gross violation of the guidelines of the scheme by many members; MPs investing these funds in private trusts and societies created by them; recommending projects that are prohibited; insisting on choosing the implementing agencies and handing over the cheques and constantly resisting transparency and accountability, says the book by A Suryaprakash.

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