Raja ignored PM on 2G, cost nation Rs.1.76 lakh crore: Auditor (Roundup)By IANS
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
NEW DELHI - In the most serious indictment on the 2G-spectrum scam, India’s official auditor Tuesday said former communications minister A. Raja even ignored Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s advice and allotted radio frequency to new telecom players at low prices, resulting in a huge revenue loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crore (nearly $40 billion) to the nation.
In another embarassing comment, the Supreme Court expressed surprise at the 16-month inaction and silence of the prime minister on a complaint seeking action against Raja over the scam, sought by Janata Party president and former MP Subramanian Swamy.
In a 96-page report including annexures tabled in parliament, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said the presumptive loss to exchequer through spectrum allocation to 122 licencees and 35 dual technology licences in 2007-08 was Rs.1,76,645 crore.
“The entire process of spectrum allocation was undertaken in an arbitrary manner,” said the report, adding the loss was arrived at on the basis of the 3G auction earlier this year that fetched the government Rs.67,500 crore (around $15 billion).
The report was tabled in the Lok Sabha by Minister of State for Finance S.S. Palanimanickam, who belongs to Raja’s party DMK. In the Rajya Sabha, it was tabled by his colleague Minister of State for Finance Namo Narayan Meena.
The audit report also sought to give a clean chit to the ministries of finance and law and justice — as also to the Prime Minister’s Office — saying the telecom minister had brushed aside their advice as well.
“The entire process of allocation of unified access service licences lacked transparency and was undertaken in an arbitrary, unfair and inequitable manner,” said the damning report that was brushed aside later by Raja, who continued to say he had done no wrong.
“The prime minister had stressed on the need for a fair and transparent allocation of spectrum, and the ministry of finance had sought for the decision regarding spectrum pricing to be considered by an empowered group of ministers,” said the report.
“Brushing aside their concerns and advices, the Department of Telecommunications in 2008 proceeded to issue 122 new licences for 2G spectrum at 2001 prices, by flouting every cannon of financial propriety, rules and procedures.”
At a press conference in the afternoon, when Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General Lekha Gupta was asked on what basis the various ministries, the prime minister and the federal cabinet as a whole were absolved, she said there was no such attempt.
“We have not given a clean chit to anybody. We have only based our report on the basis of documents at our disposal,” Gupta said, adding even the cut-off date for receipt of applications was advanced arbitrarily.
Raja, who resigned Sunday night in the wake of the controversy, said the government’s stand was spelt out in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, which was hearing the matter, and that he could not comment any further as the case was sub judice.
“Let the law take its course. I have put up my defence before the Supreme Court. My conscience is clear,” he said, adding: “I did everything according to the recommendations by the telecom regulator.”
The Supreme Court, hearing Swamy’s petition, noted that while he had asked for sanction to proceed against Raja in 2008, he got a reply from the Prime Minister’s Office 16 months later in 2010.
“Dr. Swamy has a right in law to ask for sanction as a private citizen of the country. Sanctioning authority can say yes or no. But to say it is premature means you don’t have a right yet,” the apex court said.
“We consider this communication from the highest constitutional body (Prime Minister’s Office) should be carefully worded. We are examining the constitutional validity of this reply. It is troubling us.” The matter comes up again Friday.
After adamantly refusing to resign, Raja quit his cabinet post late Sunday night over the 2G spectrum controversy, ending an opposition-Congress standoff that, however, continues to paralyse parliament.