As the 2G spectrum case gets murkier, former Central Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha has alleged that the Telecom ministry officials were non-cooperative and had tried to delay the probe undertaken by the anti-corruption watchdog in the matter.
Mr. Sinha, who retired in September last year as Central Vigilance Commissioner after a four-year tenure, said the Ministry had disobeyed the Commission’s advice and gave licenses on first-come first-serve basis as against auctioning.
“There was delay on part of telecom ministry officials to reply to queries raised by the Commission in its probe...
But somehow, we managed to get the documents needed for the investigation. Based on the investigation, at a glance, it appeared that there had been certain lapses in following government policies,” he said.
He said the matter forced the Commission to conduct a direct enquiry into the allocation of spectrum that supports second-generation wireless telephone technology (2G).
“The Central Vigilance Commission from day one felt that auction would have been the best option to distribute spectrum. Even the policy of first-come first-serve was not properly followed. There was no doubt in our mind that things were not properly done,” Mr. Sinha, who was then at the helm of the affairs of the CVC, said.
He said the initial investigations conducted by the CVC found that licenses were given to companies who did not comply with eligibility criteria.
Explaining the detailed investigation undertaken by the probity watchdog, he said, “A detailed enquiry by the Commission found certain lapses in the process... some of the companies, which got the spectrum, did not meet eligibility criteria.”
Mr. Sinha said the probe proved instances of criminal conspiracy in distribution of the 2G spectrum.
“These lapses needed to be further probed for any criminal liabilities by specialised agencies. There was a clear vigilance angle in this case.... Hence the case was handed over to the CBI for further investigations,” he said.
CAG competent enough
To a question over discrepancy in the presumptive loss figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore calculated by the statutory auditors of the country and Rs 22,000 crore put forth by the CBI, Mr. Sinha said, “The CAG has experienced auditors and is manned by competent people. The CAG would have detailed reasons if they are saying so (loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore).
“Also in their reports (on the issue) they have mentioned three amounts which is the possible losses that might have been incurred in the distribution of the spectrum,” Sinha, a 1969 batch IAS officer of Bihar cadre, said.
When specifically asked as to whether the CVC has quantified the loss to the exchequer, he said, “Unlike CAG, which has gone into the details, no such exercise of calculating loss to the government was taken by us. The exercise taken by the Chief Technical Examination wing of the Commission was basically about finding lapses in implementing government policy of distributing spectrum to telecom companies.”
The distribution of telecom spectrum is being probed by the CBI which has arrested former Telecom Minister A.Raja and two of his aides R.K.Chandolia and Siddharta Behura.
In a related development, Justice Shivraj V. Patil committee in its report submitted on January 31 had said that all spectrum decisions taken by the then governments since 2003-08 were procedurally wrong.