Over INR 278 crore pending payments from government departments and sections to Air India

Various government departments and ministries had pending payments amounting to INR 278.49 crore to Air India, according to RTI information from the loss-laden national carrier which is being sold off to the Tata group.

According to Air India’s reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by Commodore Lokesh K Batra (Retd) on January 20, 2022, the dues are under multiple heads and estimated to have been pending up to October 2021.  The government has already stopped booking through credit facilities by its departments on Air India ahead of the disinvestment.

Prime Minister’s flights of INR 7.20 crore. (Image Courtesy – Newslaundry)

This pending amount includes INR 244.78 crore from over 700 government departments and sections as of September 2021 and INR 33.71 crore towards various VVIP flights as of July 27, 2021, as per the data. This also includes dues from the Prime Minister’s flights of INR 7.20 crore and the President’s flight dues of INR 6.14 crore. The last audit was done on October 7, 2021, Air India said.

The Ministry of External Affairs owes INR 20.37 crore, the Ministry of Home Affairs owes INR 7.20 crore and the Defence Ministry owes INR 6.14 crore.

When asked to provide financial year-wise data from FY16 onwards on the amount not recovered but book adjustments are done from each such public authority, Air India said in the RTI reply, “as the disinvestment procedure is going on, the requested information will be provided later on.”

Over INR 278 crore pending payments from government departments and sections to Air India

Among other dues, Lok Sabha, New Delhi, owes INR 2.38 crore; Airport Authority of India around INR 53 lakh; Under Secretary, Lok Sabha sect INR 2.40 crore; Controller of Defence Accounts INR 2.45 crore; Senior Executive Officer, Rajya Sabha sect INR 4.91 crore; Ministry of External Affairs around INR 5.2 crore; Lok Sabha sect, INR 4.29 crore; Executive Officer, Lok Sabha sect INR 18.15 crore; Dept of Post INR 9.52 crore; Commissioner of Customs INR 64.37 crore; Controller of Defence Accounts (Navy) INR 16.84 crore; Indian Embassy Paris INR 1.21 crore; and Indian Embassy Kathmandu INR 1.19 crore.

Various sections in the Civil Aviation Department itself owe nearly INR 5 crore to Air India, which is saddled with huge losses. According to the carrier, around 790 government departments and ministries owe money to it.

The outstanding from the Vice President’s flights was INR 10.219 crore, evacuation flight dues were INR 7.214 crore and foreign dignitaries INR 2.94 crore. As per C&AG report 40 of 2016, as of March 31, 2016, the government had owed Air India INR 513.27 crore towards VVIP and other chartered flights, including evacuation fights and maintenance of aircraft.

Air India has stopped all credit facilities to government departments.

With the process of disinvestment of Air India and Air India Express going on, Air India has stopped all credit facilities to government departments. “Therefore, all ministries/ departments are directed to clear Air India’s due immediately. Air tickers from Air India may be purchased in cash till further instructions,” the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, said in an office memorandum on October 27, 2021.

However, modifying the October order, the Expenditure Department issued another order on December 31, 2021, saying, “in all cases of air travel where the Government of India bears the cost of air passage, the officials concerned are to travel by Air India only and air tickets are to be purchased directly from Air India or by utilizing the services of the three Authorized Travel Agents viz. Balmer Lawrie & Company Ltd, Ashok Travels & Tours and Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation.”

“To ensure timely payment of air ticket to the travel agents, to confirm the performance of journey, the employee has to submit a certificate/ undertaking in prescribed proforma within 7 days of completion of the journey. TA bill may be submitted later as per the existing rules,” it said.

In October 2021, the government issued a letter of intent (LoI) confirming the sale of its 100% stake in the loss-making Air India to Tata group for INR 18,000 crore. The government had accepted an offer by Talace Pvt Ltd, a unit of the holding company of the group, to pay INR 2,700 crore in cash and takeover INR 15,300 crore of the airline’s debt. Air India’s accumulated losses of INR 70,875 crore have led to the erosion of the net worth of the company.

Employees of Air India and Indian Airlines have come under the ambit of Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) from January 1, 2022, with the Labour Ministry repealing the related legislation that allowed them to be part of the exempted trust so far.

(With Inputs from The Indian Express)