New Delhi: The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has invited the government’s top officials to a retreat in Shimla later this week in an attempt to present its viewpoint to them and gain their support.
The proposed relationship-building exercise comes amid a series of critical reports by the government’s statutory auditor pointing to irregularities in the allocation of radio spectrum, the purchase of aircraft by state-owned Air India and an oil exploration deal with Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL).
The auditor is also studying a decision of the government to allow the diversion of surplus coal by Reliance Power Ltd from the captive coal mines associated with the Sasan ultra-mega power project to another project of the company.
The retreat, to be held at CAG’s National Academy of Audit and Accounts in Shimla on 15 and 16 October, is expected to be attended by the country’s top bureaucrats, including secretaries of various ministries, and is aimed at those holding “deliberations with auditees”. The invitations have been sent by Vinod Rai, comptroller and auditor general.
The United Progressive Alliance has been battling allegations of widespread corruption, prompting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to state that CAG was going beyond its mandate.
“CAG has invited the top officials for this retreat in the wake of the 2G and Commonwealth Games scams to present its viewpoint as the issues have captured the nation’s imagination,” said a senior government official aware of the retreat, who did not want to be identified.
While government officials clarify that such a retreat is an annual occurrence, it comes at a time when questions are being asked about how the government’s auditor arrived at the Rs1.76 trillion loss figure in the so-called 2G (second-generation telecom spectrum) scam and how the report featuring this number was prepared.
A CAG spokesperson declined to comment.
Mint reported in a 6 September story, based on internal CAG documents, that R.P. Singh, director general (post and telecommunications) at CAG, and the man who signed off on the 2G report, had raised the impossibility of quantifying losses arising from the allegedly irregular allotment of licences and spectrum to some telcos in 2008. He also didn’t actually have a hand in compiling the final report. Instead, he was asked to sign off on a report prepared by CAG headquarters. In its final report, CAG listed four figures as possible presumptive (or notional) losses arising from the way the government chose to allot spectrum to companies in 2008: Rs67,364 crore, Rs57,666 crore, Rs69,626 crore and Rs1.76 trillion.
The joint parliamentary committee looking into alleged irregularities in the allocation of 2G spectrum is expected to go into the genesis of the government auditor’s report that estimated a loss between Rs65,000 crore and Rs1.76 trillion to the exchequer citing the Mint report on 6 September.
Oil and gas companies such as RIL, against whom CAG has levelled allegations of gold-plating costs, have also hit back, saying CAG does not have the technical expertise to audit them.
However, the Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s federal investigating agency that was conducting a preliminary inquiry into the issue of alleged irregularities in the operation of RIL’s block in the Krishna-Godavari (KG) basin, has been bolstered by the findings of a CAG report that highlighted improprieties in RIL’s operation of the KG-DWN-98/3 block and raised questions about its operation of the lucrative KG-D6 block. Mint reported on 20 September that CBI plans to register a case or multiple cases against RIL and officials of the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons and the petroleum ministry.