Former Director General in Comptroller and Auditor General’s office, R P Singh’s double speak on the presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh raises serious questions about his integrity and professionalism. Opposition members of the JPC have accused him of playing a fraud and disrupting the JPC by making contradictory statements before the parliamentary committee and now publicly alleging that CAG’s estimate of revenue loss was inflated.
He had deposed under oath to JPC that he didn’t disagree with CAG’s final report and that he was not forced to sign it. While telling newsmen that he was responsible only for a small part of the final report, he hid from the media that the final loss figures emerged after a cumulative audit process involving the Finance Ministry and the Corporate Affairs Ministry. If the former Director was indeed in disagreement with the CAG’s final report, why didn’t he give a note of dissent – a normal practice in multi-member forums? Singh’s allegations against BJP leader and Chairman of Public Accounts Committee Dr M M Joshi were promptly refuted by the BJP leader who said he never called any CAG official to his residence and there was no question of his making any attempt to influence the federal auditor. While demanding an enquiry into Singh’s conduct, Dr Joshi offered to quit PAC if Singh’s allegations were proved correct. In any case, there was nothing wrong if the PAC Chairman pushed CAG to submit its report expeditiously in view of the intense public interest in finding out the truth about the 2G scam. Senior officials in federal auditor’s office don’t take Singh’s “disclosures” seriously. They point out that the former Director failed to recognize intrinsic relationship between PAC and CAG and insist that CAG is the friend, philosopher and guide of PAC. There was absolutely nothing wrong in Dr Joshi speaking to CAG and his senior officers and asking them to explain their findings.
Caught in his lies and half-truths, Singh retracted his statement blaming the newspaper that carried his interview for “misquoting” him. Under persistent questioning in Karan Thapar’s television show, Singh retracted and admitted he was never under pressure from CAG or Dr Joshi. CPI leader Gurdas Dasgupta is on record that PAC while conducting a suo motu enquiry into 2G scam had called officers of the Finance Ministry and CAG to assist it but insists the CAG never shared any report with PAC before it was submitted to the President and Parliament. Deeply concerned about Singh alluding to information he didn’t present before JPC, opposition members of the committee are planning to summon him again to explain his conduct. He is likely to be grilled on his contradictory statements and U turns. His cross examination in PAC and JPC may reveal his nexus with the Congress and the conspiracy of which he appears to be a part. Sonia Gandhi who jumped the gun to blame the BJP for its role in revenue loss estimate is now red-faced. Who stands exposed – BJP or Congress – Soniaji?
Rattled by exposure of huge scams by media and CAG, the Congress party launched a vicious attack on the constitutional authority. “Zero Loss” Kapil Sibal indicted CAG for spreading “sensationalism” leading to a “flop” auction of 2G spectrums auction in 2012 mandated by the Supreme Court. Newly appointed I&B Minister Manish Tewari, sarcastically asked CAG “Where is Rs 1.76 lakh crore loss?” As if this was not enough impropriety, the Minister is reported to have dared the CAG to have a public debate with him on the revenue loss issue. Never before in Independent India had any minister challenged a constitutional authority in so brazen a manner. Congress leaders and Ministers accuse and challenge the federal auditor over loss figure to shift focus from the core issue namely the fraudulent policy of allocation of 2G spectrum that led to the arrest of Raja and cancellation of 122 licenses by the Supreme Court. Vinod Rai, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, recently observed that no one had faulted CAG on facts and that audit reports were based on solid information supplied by the Government. As for the revenue loss figure, it is debatable. The audit report mentioned three figures based on different parameters. It could be Rs 1.76 lakh crore, or Rs 1.6 lakh crore or Rs 2.6 lakh crore. Let them discuss the quantum of revenue loss but there can be no dispute about the fraudulent allocation of 2G spectrum. The scam is being investigated by CBI under apex court’s supervision. Present dispensation’s desperate attempt to shift attention from the core issue has boomeranged.
The Government’s claim that the recent auction of 2G spectrum was a “flop show” is yet another attempt by the party to confuse the people and save itself from the taint of huge corruption in the 2G scam. The Government mopped up Rs 9407 crore from 22 license areas against Rs 9280 crore from 122 licenses in 2008. Market conditions were vastly different in 2008. While sensex crossed the 2100 mark in January 2008, it was 18,500 in November 2012 when auctions were held. Isn’t it odd that only five companies participated in the auction? There were no bids for four large and highly profitable telecom circles – Delhi, Mumbai, Karnataka and Rajasthan. Did this happen because corporates indulged in cartelization in connivance with the Government was keen to keep prices low in a bid to prove CAG wrong? What a shame that the Government celebrated its failure to net expected revenue! In 2008 more than 575 companies were queued up for allocation when A Raja gave licenses to chosen few at 2001 prices. Further, India had only 234 million mobile subscribers with a market potential of 800 million four years ago. Now the mobile subscriber growth has reached a plateau. It may have discouraged some companies to make substantial investment because of the risks involved. Average revenue per user has also come down from Rs 316 in 2008 to Rs 97 per month now. Under the circumstances, the auction was not so much a flop show as the Government would like us to believe.
Congress party’s attempt to vilify CAG is part of its strategy to undermine constitutional authorities whenever it finds itself under attack for corruption and mismanagement of the economy. Indira Gandhi imposed emergency and stifled democracy to remain in office after the Allahabad High Court declared her election to parliament null and void. Loyalists floated the idea of committed judiciary and bureaucracy – committed not to principles but to the ruling party! The dynastic party is per se against democracy. It is high time that sensitive institutions like CVC and CBI are given constitutional status to enable them to perform their duties independent of Government interference. The nation is fed up with scams. We need effective institutions to deal with corruption in high places.