Asserting that it was the Government of the day which had suggested that the coal allocation policy was opaque and not transparent, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on Friday stood by the Rs. 1.86 lakh crore figure maintaining ``we would not have done our duty if we had not indicated the financial gains accrued to the private companies during 2004-09 period.’’
Making a presentation before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday and answering questions raised by various members, a calm and composed CAG Vinod Rai explained how the CAG had arrived at the loss figures and the reasoning and procedures adopted for the same. ``It was not the CAG but the Secretary, Coal who had in 2004 suggested that the policy of allotment of coal blocks at that time was opaque and non-transparent. Also the CAG had found a number of noting's in various files and all the words pertaining to introduction of competitive bidding and windfall gains came from the government and not CAG. Till date nobody in the government has contradicted these points. CAG has not provided any legal advice or commented on any policy,’’ Mr. Rai is learnt to have maintained before the PAC.
Citing the various stages, he said the Law Ministry at that time had given two legal opinions on competitive bidding. One was that it could be introduced through administrative amendment which was endorsed by the then Minister of State for Coal and the second an amendment needs to be made in the MMDR Act to bring this new transparent method of auctioning of coal blocks. The final rules and guidelines for the competitive bidding method were notified in 2012.
Asked why the CAG had taken only 2004-09 period for audit, he said between 1993 to 2003 a common policy was followed under which 22 meetings of the Screening Committee were held and 41 coal blocks were allocated. However, between 2004-09, 14 meetings of the Screening Committee were held and 175 coal blocks were allocated. The year 2004 was a watershed year as new policy changes were suggested from within the government and that is the reason why this 2004-09 period was taken. ``We undertook calculations of undue gains to the tune of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore on the basis of the facts, figures and procedures followed by Coal India Limited (CIL) in mining, development and sale of coal.
At this, Congress members in the PAC said that since the submission of the report, the value of rupee had gone down substantially. However, other members were quick to point out that the value of rupee against the dollar had been falling since last six months and the CAG report on coal was submitted on August 17. The Congress members also questioned Mr. Rai as to why the report covered only 2004-09 period and why not from 1993 onwards when the coal allocation policy was framed.
Later on, the members also confronted the Coal Ministry and Coal India Limited (CIL) officials on the various issues raised in the report including the financial gains extended to private companies through allocation of coal blocks for captive mining.