According to an RTI query, the government is dragging its feet on payments on the plea that the affairs of the Commonwealth Games are under a criminal probe
Diplomatic envoys from seven European countries and Australia have sent a second reminder to the Union sports and finance ministry, asking for payment of dues to foreign companies who contributed to the success of the Commonwealth Games. However, despite promising to pay after receiving the first letter in January, the government is apparently dragging its feet on the excuse that the affairs of the Games are under a criminal probe that has not been completed.
The European diplomats representing the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland and one from Australia, have written in a joint letter dated 16th February 2011, to youth affairs and sports minister Ajay Maken, that the government's silence is damaging India's reputation and raises questions about the country's commitment to fulfil contractual obligations. This was revealed in response to a query, by activist Subhas Agrawal, under the Right to Information Act.
"Four months after the event finished, nearly 20 companies from our countries still await full payment against contracts entered into in good faith. These companies made a substantial contribution to the success of the Games, bringing world-class skills and capabilities to India. The combined amount owed to these companies is close to US $70 million. As you will appreciate, this has caused considerable financial difficulty for all, placing some in a critical position," the diplomats stated. Mr Agrawal has also received a list of 18 companies and the amounts due to them.
The diplomats also alleged that many of their companies have still not received clearances from the Reserve Bank of India and the Central Board of Excise and Customs for unloading shipments containing essential equipment for business. As a result, they are finding it difficult to fulfil their obligations to other sports events like the Asian Football Cup in Doha.
"Each of us has lent support to these in their attempts to resolve these issues amicably and in a low-key manner. The companies and our interventions have unfortunately proved insufficient," they said. "Your welcome initiative to ensure that outstanding payments would be made by the OC (Organising Committee) within 10 days has not broken the deadlock and the deadline has passed. DDA (Delhi Development Authority) and PB (Prasar Bharati) have also not met all of their financial commitments to some of our companies."
The matter of pending dues first came to light when the British High Commissioner wrote to the Union finance minister, complaining about the irregularity in payments to the British broadcasting company SIS Live. The embarrassing exposure led the government to state on 31st January that all payments would be settled soon. However, nothing has been done yet and the payments continue to be withheld, citing the ongoing probe into the Commonwealth Games affairs.
Sindhushree Khullar, secretary in the ministry of youth affairs and sports, has written to foreign secretary Nirupama Rao asking for advice. According to the status report sent to Ms Rao, in most cases the payments have been withheld due to the ongoing probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation. It said data about other deals was being collected and processed and that administrative hurdles continued to delay payments.
The diplomats are not convinced. "It is encouraging that discussions between the Organising Committee and some of the affected companies continue. But we are concerned that these discussions have been taking place for months without a satisfactory resolution," the letter stated.
"We have mutual interest in ensuring that India continues to attract the levels of trade and investment to sustain levels of growth that realises the country's economic potential. The long delay in settling these matters is damaging India's national reputation, including as a host of major sporting events, denting the confidence of foreign business and raising doubts about the enforcement of contracts," they said in the letter.
The proposed new biometric PAN cards would bear the I-T assessee's fingerprints (two from each hand) and the face. It is expected that the first such cards could be issued by late this year
New Delhi: The government has decided to issue biometric Permanent Account Number (PAN) cards to taxpayers across the country to weed out the problem of duplicate and fake ones, reports PTI.
The decision was taken recently by the finance ministry and it comes in the wake of a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report that asked the Income Tax (I-T) department to ensure that a single taxpayer is not issued multiple cards.
The proposed new biometric PAN cards would bear the I-T assessee's fingerprints (two from each hand) and the face.
There could be an option to existing PAN card holders to opt for the biometric cards, but it may not be mandatory, a senior I-T official said.
The finance ministry and the I-T department had put on hold the biometric PAN card project last year to avoid duplication with the Unique Identification (UID) numbers to be issued by Nandan Nilekani's Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI).
"The biometric PAN card project is on again. The step will be very important when it comes to stopping the misuse of this vital identity document," top sources in the finance ministry said.
The biometric PAN card was proposed by the then finance minister P Chidambaram in 2006 to counter the problem of duplicate PAN cards which were uncovered during I-T searches and raids by police and other enforcement agencies.
The CAG report for 2010-11 on direct taxes, tabled in Parliament recently, has revealed that 958 lakh (95.8 million) PANs were issued up to March 2010 but I-T returns filed in the last fiscal were only 340.9 lakh (34.09 million).
The gap between PAN holders and the number of returns filed was 617.1 lakh (61.7 million), the CAG has said.
Suggesting the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to identify the reasons for the gap and use the information to enhance the assessee base, the CAG has said it may be due to issuance of multiple PAN cards and death of some PAN card holders.
"The (I-T) department needs to put in place appropriate controls to weed out the duplicate PANs and also update the position in respect of deceased assessees," the report has said.
The plan has been set rolling for issuance of biometric PAN cards, according to sources. It is expected that the first such cards could be issued by late this year, they said.
While PAN is a 10-digit alphanumeric number allotted by the I-T department to taxpayers, biometrics uses biological method to identify physical features of an individual.
"This is a strong financial result driven by record refinery throughput of 14.76 million tonnes per annum and a healthy uplift of over 80% in gross refinery margins," Essar Oil CEO and managing director Naresh Nayyar informed media persons
New Delhi: Essar Oil today reported a 78% jump in its fourth quarter ending 31st March to Rs321 crore, on back of record refinery throughput and higher margins, reports PTI.
"This is a strong financial result driven by record refinery throughput of 14.76 million tonnes per annum and a healthy uplift of over 80% in gross refinery margins (GRMs)," Essar Oil CEO and managing director Naresh Nayyar told a conference call.
Essar Oil earned $8.15 for turning every barrel of crude oil into fuel in January-March quarter as against $5.37 per barrel GRM in the same period a year ago.
Revenues soared 24% to Rs14,846 crore in the fourth quarter.
For the full year 2010-11, net profit jumped to Rs654 crore as against Rs29 crore in the previous year.
"Demand for petroleum products in India is expected to continue to grow sharply and we remain focused on delivering our key projects, which in 2011 includes the first phase of our Vadinar refinery expansion," he said.
Expansion of Vadinar refinery in Gujarat to 18 million tonnes per annum is on track for mechanical completion in Q2 and Q3, 2011 calendar year.
"The optimisation project to enhance refinery capacity to 20 million tonnes a year is on track for completion by September 2012," he said.
Essar Oil has 1,635 petrol pumps, of which 1,381 are operational and 254 are in various stages of construction.
For full year, gross revenues increased 25% to Rs53,119 crore from Rs42,402 crore in FY 2009-10.
Current price GRM registered an 87% growth to $6.91 per barrel in FY 2010-11 from $3.70 a barrel in FY 2009-10.
Mr Nayyar said the Vadinar refinery continued to operate well above its nameplate capacity of 10.5 million tonnes per annum, processing a record 14.76 million tonnes of crude oil in 2010-11, 9% higher than the 13.50 million tonnes of crude oil processed during 2009-10.