CAG reports need not be viewed as sacrosanct, says Chief Minister

Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy and P. Keshav of Telugu Desam Party indulged in a slanging match in the Assembly on Monday over undermining the institution of Comptroller & Auditor-General (CAG).

It all started when Mr. Keshav said the power tariff in the State had gone up steeply due to a Rs. 5,000-crore coal scandal that came to light recently and “undue benefits” ensured to private developers.

Participating in a debate on the power situation, he said the government paid a price payable for high grade of coal while making imports, although it was a low grade coal of low caloric value which was received. Consequently, generation by the thermal plants using this coal was less even when high installed capacity was operated.

A big sum of Rs. 500 crore had “changed hands” in connection with the imports. He alleged that APCC president and Transport Minister Botcha Satyanarayana had highlighted the scandal in a letter he had written to the party high command, putting the illegal sum involved at Rs. 350 crore.

On the other hand, the report by the CAG specified the loss to the exchequer at Rs. 4,800 crore.

The Chief Minister replied that CAG would prepare reports by adopting specific accounting procedure. Going through the CAG reports, one would get an impression that scandals took place, as these reports, at times, were finalised even before receiving the replies/clarification from the government over the queries raised. Once the government replies were received, specific observations would be dropped.

He said, “CAG reports need not be viewed as sacrosanct”. An observation made by the CAG in the past that the State suffered a Rs. 13,000-crore loss over Srisailam reversible turbines project, was dropped by a House Committee comprising mostly Opposition members. He was on the committee representing Congress then in the Opposition.

Mr. Keshav said Mr. Reddy was “undermining” CAG, a Constitutional body. The Chief Minister meant that CAG could be not taken seriously. Mr. Reddy said Mr. Keshav was trying to give a different meaning to his clarification.