The tale of differences within the office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) on quantification of the presumptive loss in allotment of 2G spectrum licence has taken a new twist. A senior official in the office who expressed reservations about pegging the loss at Rs. 1.76 lakh crore had himself overruled the projected loss reported by the Field Unit Team under his charge.
R.P. Singh, CAG's ex-Director-General (Audit), in his deposition before the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) looking into the telecom policy from 1998 to 2009, admitted that while the Field Unit had calculated the loss at Rs. 26,685 crore, he pegged it at Rs. 2,645 crore.
Mr. Singh, who was summoned by the JPC to explain why he did not agree with the figure mentioned in the final report of the CAG, however, could not explain why he affixed his signature to the report. Mr. Singh contended that as an ‘obedient government servant' he went by the judgment of the superior authority.
The CAG's basis of calculation of the notional loss to the exchequer on account of allotment of 2G spectrum licenses has been the subject of debate since the submission of the report in November 2010. CAG Vinod Rai had appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as well as the JPC to explain the rationale behind the calculation of presumptive loss.
The controversy got a new lease of life after a section of the media reported that Mr. Rai had ignored the objections raised by senior officials within his office. The media got a scent of it a few weeks after the retirement of Mr. Singh.
The JPC would hear the version of the CAG on the take of Mr. Singh on Tuesday. The CAG has reportedly expressed a desire that Mr. Singh be also present when they record his evidence. However, he was told that the committee took evidence individually.
The chief argument of Mr. Singh before the JPC was that the presumptive loss could not be quantified as auction of the spectrum was never contemplated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). In addition, the government never contemplated any charges other than entry fee for allotment of licences.
Then how did he arrive at a loss of Rs. 2,645 crore ? He reasoned that the entry fee fixed in 2003 should have been revised taking into account inflation and by that criteria the government suffered an ‘actual' and not presumptive loss of Rs. 2,645 crore.
Asked the basis on which he had overruled the Field Audit Report, which projected loss of potential revenue to the tune of Rs. 26,685 crore, Mr. Singh contended that he did not go by the version because there was ‘no conclusive evidence' to substantiate the figure.
At a news briefing later, the JPC chairman P.C. Chacko, when asked what purpose the testimony of Mr. Singh had served, said it clearly showed that the CAG office was not on the same page and did not function as a collective team in preparation of the final report on the 2G spectrum licences.
Mr. Chacko quoted Mr. Singh as telling the committee that since presumptive loss was not quantifiable, to show the presumptive loss would be bringing in individual judgment which was questionable. “Presumptive loss is a mathematical guess,” Mr. Singh told the Committee.