Citing the Delhi High Court decision to order audit of certain private telecom companies by the Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) and endorsing Delhi Government’s move for a similar audit of private power distribution companies, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Thursday said Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) projects should come under the Lokpal.
In the editorial of the latest issue of the party organ People’s Democracy, the CPI(M) said: “It can only be hoped that after these significant developments, greater wisdom prevails and both the Congress and the BJP are forced in the Parliament to stop patronizing such ‘crony capitalism’ and accept the CPI(M)’s amendment.’’
During the discussion on the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha last month, the CPI(M) had moved an amendment to bring private companies — particularly in PPP projects that use public resources or have a financial agreement with the government — within the ambit of the Lokpal investigation. According to the party, though there were only 11 members from the various Left parties present in the House at the time of voting on the amendment, it got 19 votes; “meaning that some other well-meaning MPs’’ supported it.
Referring to the counter-argument that a CAG audit into private firms would amount to interference in their function, the CPI(M) said auditing private companies using public resources is not a violation of Article 149 of the Constitution. The CPI(M) premise is that private telecom companies pay spectrum usage charges and an annual license fee. Also, such an audit would ensure that the government receives its legitimate earnings and people can see that telecom operators are not under-reporting revenues, part of which goes to the public exchequer.
The same applies to the three private power distribution companies of the Capital as Delhi Government has 49 per cent ownership in them. Since public finances are involved, the CPI(M) has argued that it is only appropriate that these accounts are audited by CAG.
As for India Inc.’s argument that such an audit would further “regress the economy’’ already on a slowdown, the CPI(M) said this “only amounts to suggesting that the existing overwhelming prevalence of ‘crony capitalism’ that permits profit maximisation through means other than legitimate must remain unregulated and unchecked’’.