Maharashtra assembly canteen stops tea, coffee to ministers with bill dues

A recent audit found ministers and secretaries owe an undisclosed amount of money to the Mantralaya canteen

The records of pending bills are so scattered that it is difficult to determine exactly how much is pending and since when, or even which department owes it.

Long-pending canteen bills of ministers and secretaries has forced the Maharashtra government to put a caveat on all its departments in the Mantralaya: “If you want tea, coffee and biscuits, clear the bill within seven days or you won’t be served anymore.”

ThePrint reported that the Maharashtra general administration department issued an order to this effect last week for bringing the new rule from January 1. The ministers and secretaries owe an undisclosed amount of money to the Mantralaya canteen.

“The records of pending bills are so scattered that it is difficult to determine exactly how much is pending and since when, or even which department owes it,” an official of the general administration department told ThePrint.

“At times, ministers hold more than one portfolio and when they order for refreshments during their meetings, the personal assistant doesn’t even make a note of which department these refreshments are for. So, it makes it difficult for the canteen to chase people and recover the amount,” a state official said.

The Accountant General of Maharashtra, too, had raised the issue of pending bills during the 2020 audit.

The Mantralaya canteen extends a credit facility for refreshments ordered by the offices of the chief minister, cabinet ministers, ministers of state, chief secretary, secretaries as well as joint and deputy secretaries for official meetings.

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The general administration department has also decided on accountability for repayment. “The department concerned will have the right to decide the official at whose level the credit request will be registered with the Mantralaya canteen or the way in which it is registered. However, it will be the responsibility of the joint secretary or the deputy secretary of the department to ensure that the bills are cleared within a week,” the resolution said.

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