Tells JPC he does not disagree with the auditor’s final report, but spins a totally different story to media a year later

Former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) official, R.P. Singh has been singing a different tune to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on 2G which contradicts his statements to media that he is in disagreement with the Rs.1.76 lakh crore and other loss figures in the CAG’s 2G scam report and its procedure, and that he was forced to sign it. It turns out that Mr. Singh told the JPC that he neither disagrees with the final CAG report nor was he forced to sign it.

In the last 72 hours, supporting Mr Singh, senior Congress politicians, including those who are members of the JPC, told multiple media channels that Mr. Singh’s public disclosures since Friday are consistent with his deposition to the JPC a year ago on November 14, 2011. Since Mr. Singh’s deposition in the JPC was made under oath, this support from Congress members on the 2G JPC becomes significant as it helped lend greater credibility to Mr. Singh’s statements over the weekend which went viral.

Not forced to sign

Most of Mr. Singh’s confessions to the JPC came after sustained questioning by Mr. Gurudas Dasgupta and Mr. Yashwant Sinha. Mr. Singh, when asked the truth of whether he was forced to sign the report by Mr. Dasgupta, denied having done so in no uncertain terms. He was asked why he signed the report if he had a difference of opinion over the loss figures. Mr. Singh responded by saying that he had rejected presumptive loss figures due to lack of evidence, but had signed the report because this was a CAG report and the CAG was the final authority. When Mr. Dasgupta asked him if he could have refused to sign, Mr. Singh said he was bound to sign because he was a subordinate and government functions through a hierarchy. However, he plainly admitted that had he not signed, some other officer would have signed the final report.

Only part audit

Mr. Singh, who has been raising questions about the three loss figures in the CAG report and complaining about the issue of guidelines, inferring victimisation, has never revealed to the media the real truth about his limited role and access to information. Under persistent questioning, he disclosed to the JPC that he was only responsible for one part of the audit which related to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in his role as DG, Post & Telegraph. There were at least two other simultaneous audits that were conducted on the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs by separate audit teams, which were reporting to separate functionaries, under the supervision of the CAG headquarters, within the overall ambit of the 2G scam audit.

This implies that any objection that Mr. Singh made would only be on account of the limited information that his three-member team auditing DoT would convey, since the final CAG report, as he informed the JPC, was a culmination of the audit conducted in three different places. This clearly left him in no position of authority or knowledge to cast aspersions on the cumulative report, its contents or final loss figures — a vital fact that Mr. Singh has failed to reveal in his over two dozen newspaper and TV interviews.

Rather, it is clear from Mr. Singh’s letter of May 31, 2010, that he himself acknowledged that the audit probe needed to go beyond his limited scope, which was confined to the DoT. He wrote, “it is the privilege of Headquarters if deemed fit to obtain views from CVC, CBI, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Company Affairs, TRAI, etc,” thereby admitting that the information needed to be accumulated by several different teams within the CAG system before arriving at loss figures.

Moreover, several other officers of his rank conducting parallel part audits and those senior to him would have to take ownership of the final CAG report. When directly questioned by JPC members whether he believed that the CAG report had given unrealistic figures or whether the CAG had gone beyond its mandate, Mr. Singh did not record any agreement with such contentions last year.

Since the JPC members knew Mr. Singh was only responsible for a portion of the final report, they further quizzed him about the other parts that may not have come from his department. Mr. Singh acknowledged that the audit report was a collective effort and that nobody can disassociate with it or disown it. He further confirmed to the JPC that he did not even disagree with those aspects of the report for which he was not responsible.

Rejected field teams

Mr. Singh has been busy impressing on the media that he had only indexed the Rs.1,658 crore entry fee of 2001 which was used to award spectrum in 2008 to Rs.2,645 crore and rejected the Rs.1.76 lakh crore loss figure (based on Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommendations that 2G should be equated with 3G auction prices), which he accused the CAG of mysteriously reinstating. However, he has failed to reveal that the 3G-related losses had been put up to him independently by his own three-member audit team which was auditing DoT, and not by CAG Vinod Rai. Based on the DoT reply and other evidence, the three-member audit team had presented various figures which included loss figures Rs.2,645 crore, Rs.48,374 crore, Rs.65,725 crore (S Tel) and Rs.1,02,497 crore (3G comparison for Raja’s 122 licences). It is rumoured that there was even a loss figure of Rs.4.19 lakh crore given in the early stages of the audit.

Mr. Singh told the JPC last year that he had rejected the loss figure of the audit team based on his perception that there wasn’t sufficient evidence. Having done that, he then, in May 2010, proceeded to use an indexation methodology to substantially whittle down the loss figure.

These contradictions raise several questions, most importantly, whether what Mr. Singh said in the JPC under oath, or his recent media interviews, are the real truth.

shalini.s@thehindu.co.in

More In: Comment | Opinion