As reported by Suman K Shrivastava in on 05 April 2008:
The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | Frontpage | Mobiles for MLAs, trouble for govt

Mobiles for MLAs, trouble for govt
- State finance minister faces rules onslaught over budget session largesse

Ranchi, April 4: Deputy chief minister and finance minister Stephen Marandi didn’t think he was dialling T for Trouble when he decided to gift high-end mobile phones to all 82 state MLAs. But now his finance secretary is throwing the rule book at him over the Rs 13.39 lakh bill.

Since there was no budgetary provision for buying “expensive mobile phones”, Raj Bala Verma has now sought the approval of chief minister Madhu Koda pointing out that any purchase worth over Rs 50,000 had to be preceded by floating tenders.

Marandi, however, was unfazed. The finance department, he said, had stopped other departments from giving gifts to the MLAs during the budget session. “So, we decided to give the gifts from the finance department. We will make a provision in the budget,” he told The Telegraph.

Based on the wishes of its minister, the finance department had bought 95 mobile sets — Nokia E51i — for Rs 13,990 each — the market price for the model is Rs 12,859.

According to sources, when the file was sent to Verma first, she turned it down saying there was no provision in the budget for buying mobile phones. But keeping in mind that Marandi also held the parliamentary affairs portfolio, she suggested that (parliamentary affairs) department’s
could be used.

When the file was re-submitted to her, she signed it, but sought an okay from the chief minister. Koda is now in a fix as conflicts in financial matters were usually referred to the finance department, whereas here it was the finance department that was seeking his nod.

Expensive gifts have become the norm in Jharkhand’s political circle. According to Congress MLA Sukhdeo Bhagat, Koda, too, gifted a handycam each to all legislators at a dinner hosted by him after the month-long budget session of the Assembly.

On earlier occasions, various departments would share the cost of the expensive gifts for MLAs “informally”. This was the first time that the finance department took it upon itself to bear the costs.

In fact, in response to an RTI application, the Assembly secretariat had revealed that gifts worth Rs 8 lakh were distributed to MLAs during 2004-2006.

Marandi got roped in this time after MLAs taunted him during his budget presentation that the quality of briefcases he handed out along with the budget papers was poor.

Hence, he took it upon himself to gift MLAs a high-end cellphone.
CPI (ML) MLA, Vinod Singh, the only one to refuse the gift, dubbed it a bribe on the floor of the House. “The state government, particularly the chief minister, should reveal the sources for meeting the costs of these gifts,” he said.

The rest of the MLAs, however, aren’t complaining.