The draft report of the Public Accounts Committee on the 2G scam has come out with yet another figure for the loss to the exchequer, putting it at Rs.1.90-lakh crore in the grant of 122 licences in 2008, dual technology licences and extra spectrum.
Interestingly, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India put the “presumptive loss” in the range of Rs.57,000 crore to Rs.1.76 lakh crore, based on four different assumptions. On the other hand, the Central Bureau of Investigation, which took up the case after the Central Vigilance Commission pointed to gross irregularities in licence allocation, estimated the loss at around Rs.22,000 crore. However, the CBI revised the figure to more than Rs.30,000 crore in its charge sheet.
The PAC said the loss due to the grant of 122 licences to new entrants in 2008 was Rs.1.24-lakh crore. Further, the government lost Rs. 36,000 crore in the grant of dual-technology licences (to CDMA operators for offering GSM services) and Rs. 30,000 crore by giving the GSM operators excess spectrum (beyond 6.2 MHz of start-up frequency). The total loss, therefore, was Rs.1.90-lakh crore.
“The Committee notes with profound concern the nationwide public shock [at] and indignation over the gross irregularities in the allotment of 2G spectrum and the colossal fiduciary loss caused to the public exchequer,” the draft report said.
It noted that well before the CAG report was tabled in Parliament, Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, in his petition filed in the Supreme Court, calculated the net loss at Rs.97,410.74 crore, while B.K. Syngal, a well-known telecom expert and former BSNL head, quantified it at between Rs.70,000 crore and Rs.80,000 crore, based on a multiple of indicators.
The draft report criticised Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal for questioning the CAG's figure and the calculation methodology it had adopted as being “without basis” and describing it as “a serious error on the part of the constitutional authority.” “The committee disapproves of the public criticism of the institution of CAG and Parliament itself. More so, the frontal attack was made by the Minister [Mr. Sibal] whose Ministry and his predecessor were under the scanner, and at a time when the matter was under examination by the PAC, obviously with an intent to confuse and create fissures.”
The report pointed out that while 2G spectrum was arbitrarily given at a throwaway price, the auction of 3G spectrum yielded revenue five times more than the base price. The two, the committee said, were certainly comparable, and the maximum loss occurred on account of the method of 2G spectrum allocation. Therefore, it was imperative that the government get the exact loss to the exchequer calculated instead of washing its hands of it on the simplistic plea that it was difficult to estimate the loss.
“The Committee further recommends that the government evolve a standard, fair and transparent procedure to avoid pecuniary loss … and recover the unlawful gains made by all those responsible for the staggering national loss.”