Former CG Sanjiv Arora Probed for “Financial Impropriety”


Former CG Sanjiv Arora

NEW DELHI: An Indian ambassador is under an official probe- a rare event in the foreign service, and even more unusually, the charges are‘lack of integrity’, something senior service members are rarely accused of.

The Ministry of External Affairs has started a probe against Sanjiv Arora, India’s ambassador to Qatar, for alleged financial impropriety and ‘lack of integrity’. The charges relate to Arora’s activities as India’s consul general in Houston.

The Economic Times has reviewed documents related to the MEA probe. Officials who spoke for this report did not want to be identified. Arora responded to ET’s questions by saying he “was not aware of any financial misappropriation” during his stint in Houston.

MEA served a memorandum to Arora on March 22 stating that Arora, as consul general in Houston, generated “fictitious vouchers… with his (Arora’s) approval as the Head of Chancery (HoC)”. Officials said the memo is the firststep in the inquiry process and that the officer’s reply is now being assessed.

MEA’s memo also makes the following points against Arora:

1. “Total systemic failure” in the handling of accounts
2. Failure to “exercise supervisory powers and control mechanisms effectively while signing monthly accounts”
3. Disregard of “government accounting rules, instructions and established norms”
4. “Lack of integrity” and “deviation from duty”

The report added that “the matter needs urgent investigation by the appropriate authorities” and that asof May 2014, a reply was awaited from the MEA.

It stated that he “signed routinely without exercising due diligence” and accepted accounts with “glaring errors and approved them for forwarding to MEA.”

Arora, a 1984 batch Indian Foreign Service officer, denied any wrongdoing. “I am not aware of any financial misappropriation at Consulate General of India,Houston,during my tenure as consulgeneral from November 2008till July 2012,”Arora told ET inresponse to aquery onthe MEA memo.

Earlier, the Comptroller and Auditor General had, in one of its reports, observed there were financial irregularities in India’s Houston consulate. CAG had admonished MEA for this in its 2014 report. It had also said that an examination of the consulate’s accounts showed “fictitious payment vouchers” of about Rs 2.3 crore ($372,632) and withdrawals worth $362,172 submitted to the MEA.

Following this, MEA had sent an internal inquiry team for a thorough check and audit. It was following this detailed process that a probe is now underway, officials told ET.

Fluent in Arabic, Arora started his career in Cairo, followed by Jeddah and has served in the Indian missions in Bonn, Colombo, Prague and Houston.

Credit: Economic Times

Editor’s Note: While in Houston, Arora was embroiled in a controversy over timely issuance of visas and lack of courteous service to people who came to the Consulate. Tempers in the community flared up to such a degree that a community activist, Ramesh Shah, held a silent one-day Gandhian hunger at the VPSS on December 7, 2010. Arora held a Townhall meeting at Rice University on December 8, 2010 to respond to selected questions. IAN followed up with an article with eight suggestions for improvements. Just before Arora left to take his post as Ambassador to Qatar, he supervised the purchase of the present building for the Consulate and moving all the Consulate articles to the new location in November 2011. Many Consular officials and community members have expressed dismay with the building for its lack of public restrooms, difficult access to the lobby and the terrible design of the passport and visa collection area.