CAG yet to get nod for Oberoi’s Wildflower Hall audit


Shimla : The country’s official auditor CAG has not got formal approval from the Himachal Pradesh government for a special audit of the Oberoi Group’s Wildflower Hall, a landmark luxury hotel on the outskirts of this city, an official said here Wednesday.

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Speaking on behalf of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), Principal Accountant General Satish Loomba said: “The final approval from the state government (for the audit of Wildflower Hall) is still awaited.”

“We have written to the government for its approval so that we could go ahead,” he said.

Loomba’s assertion came as the state cabinet, at its meeting Feb 19, decided to entrust the audit of Wildflower Hall since 1995 to the CAG.

The government, a stakeholder in the hotel, suspects financial wrongdoing in the management of the heritage hotel that has been running into losses since March 2001.

“This a private company, but the government has an arrangement of profit-sharing. So we can do an audit,” said Loomba, while interacting with the media on CAG findings about the state.

Wildflower Hall, sought-after by high-end tourists and celebrities, is a joint venture of Mashobra Resorts, the Oberoi Group company that runs the hotel, and the state government. It has long been under litigation between the two partners.

Even the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in 2011 had requested the CAG for an audit review of the company. The national auditor at that time had agreed to conduct the audit.

The hotel was handed over to the Oberoi Group under a joint venture in 1995 by the then Congress government.

Previous chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who entrusted the hotel’s audit to the CAG, had said: “It’s strange that the Oberoi’s other two ventures in Shimla – Clarke’s and Cecil – are making profit. Only Wildflower Hall is running into losses, that too for years together.”

The British-era Wildflower Hall was once the residence of Lord Kitchener, Field Marshal in the British Army who played a significant role in the early part of World War I.

After India’s Independence, the building was handed over to the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation for running a hotel. The building was gutted in a fire in 1990.

The government then approached prominent hoteliers and finally handed over the prime property to the Oberois for its restoration and operation.

Wildflower Hall is located at Chharabra, at a height of 8,300 feet, and commands a breathtaking view.

Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and her daughter Priyanka are regular guests at the hotel.