New Delhi: Former Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) official R.P. Singh told a parliamentary panel on Monday that his assessment of the loss to the exchequer from second-generation (2G) spectrum allocation was less than what appeared in the final report by the watchdog.
Singh, former director-general of audit (post and telecommunications), who headed the controversial spectrum audit, told the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) that his assessment had been Rs 2,645 crore against the figure of Rs 1.76 trillion mentioned in the CAG report. The JPC headed by Congress leader P.C. Chacko is investigating the matter.
In focus: Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai. By Pradeep Gaur/Mint
According to a person present at the JPC meeting, Singh told the panel that he “sticks to his point”. Singh was referring to a letter dated 31 May 2010 that he had written to CAG headquarters saying that the loss cannot be quantified.
Mint reported on 6 September and 27 September, citing CAG internal documents, that Singh was of the opinion that the loss cannot be quantified and that he had differences with CAG headquarters about the methodology that was used to calculate the loss to the exchequer in the range of Rs 65,000 crore to Rs 1.76 trillion, as appeared in the final report presented in Parliament.
Subsequently, based on the Mint report, the JPC decided to summon Singh and other CAG officials to explain their differences. On Monday, both Singh and Vinod Rai, the comptroller and auditor general, were expected to depose before the parliamentary panel. However, Rai’s deposition was postponed to Tuesday because of lack of time, said a person familiar with the development.
A second person, who also attended the JPC meeting, said Congress member Manish Tewari asked Singh to elaborate on his suggestion that the loss cannot be quantified. When Tewari asked whether this meant zero loss to the exchequer, the former CAG official replied in the affirmative— “Yes, well you can say that”— said the person. Both the individuals refused to be named as they are not authorized to speak to the media.
Opposition members on the panel maintained that it was Singh who had earlier explained to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), a parliamentary oversight body which is also investigating the matter, how the figure of Rs 1.76 trillion was arrived at by CAG. “(An) opposition member wanted to know” which was the figure that Singh backed, said the person cited in the first instance.
Singh, who was cross-examined by members of the JPC, also maintained that he “doesn’t disagree” with CAG’s final report.
Singh, who was summoned by the PAC at its last meeting, was prevented from presenting his case when Congress members demanded that Rai recuse himself as Singh may not have been able to express himself freely in front of his former boss.