CAG briefs JPC on 2G loss figures, but questions remain (Second Lead)

May 30th, 2011 - 8:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) was within its “mandate” to calculate the notional Rs.1.76 lakh crore loss in the allotment of 2G spectrum, but whether this amounted to questioning government policy was “unanswered”, joint parliamentary committee (JPC) chairman P.C. Chacko said Monday.

Chacko, who heads the panel probing India’s telecom licensing policy in the wake of the alleged 2G spectrum allocation scam, was speaking to the media after the committee was briefed by CAG Vinod Rai on how he had quantified that the nation suffered a presumptive loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crore in the allotment.

“They have acted within the mandate in calculating notional losses. Rai told the committee that it was the CAG’s mandate to calculate losses,” Chacko said.

Chacko, however, said that since the government had taken the decision not to auction the scarce telecom airwaves, the CAG was asked by “some members” if quantifying the loss amounted to questioning the policy prescription.

“He (Rai) did not answer that,” Chacko said, adding policy matters are “unauditable”.

He said the CAG explained to the panel the methodology of auditing and preparing its reports.

Rai also explained to the panel that the auditor had three indicators to calculate losses. One was that a private firm had offered to buy the telecom airwaves at a very high price, the second was calculations based on the 3G auction.

“The third was that some beneficiary firms had unloaded their shares at very high market prices after getting the 2G licences,” Chacko said.

The chairman said this was “logical” but the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had taken a decision that the spectrum should be auctioned. “This remained inconclusive”.

Chacko said there was “no questioning the authority of the CAG but some members did raise this question”.

The CAG, in a report to parliament last year, had pegged the presumptive loss to the exchequer in 2G spectrum allocation at Rs 1.76 lakh crore.

The findings triggered a political storm and subsequent events led to the resignation of the then telecom minister A. Raja.

Chacko said the CAG “without questioning policy decisions, can calculate presumptive losses”.

He said the Monday meeting with the CAG remained inconclusive as some documents related to CAG’s telecom reports of 2006 and 2010 were not available with the panel.

“The government’s comments on these reports were not available with us, neither were the action taken reports there. So we adjourned the meeting and decided to meet the CAG again when we get the reports,” Chacko said.

The JPC was formed after persistent demands from the opposition parties at the beginning of the winter session in February and it was mandated to look into India’s telecom policy from 1998 to 2008 that also covers the period of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule.

The JPC, at its two meetings so far, has studied the matter and the technical aspects of the mobile telephony and is likely to call witnesses in the case from June 29.

The panel will hear from CBI chief A.P. Singh June 7 and a day later, officials of the union finance ministry will appear before the committee.

Telecom Regulatory Authority Chairman J.S. Sarma will also conclude his presentation on the issue that was incomplete during the May 18 meeting.

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