The coal ministry’s attempts to blame the law ministry for the unexplained delay in allocating coal blocks between 2004 and 2009 through a transparent method of auction failed to convince the CAG.
The government’s auditor, in its report on allocation of coal blocks and augmentation of coal production tabled in both Houses of Parliament on Friday, concluded that it was for the coal ministry to have taken a final decision.
In its response to the CAG on why it failed to auction the coal blocks, the coal ministry stated: “The view that the system of bidding could be introduced through administrative instructions was first given by law ministry in July 2006, but in light of conflicting opinions, a reference was again made to that ministry.”
The coal ministry, in a bid to defend its stand, told the CAG that the law ministry, in its second opinion in August 2006, “after clarifying rationale for earlier opinion, finally opined that the coal ministry may initiate measures for amending the Mines and Minerals (Develop-ment and Regulation) Act”.
The CAG, however, refused to accept the coal ministry’s view that the delay in switching over to the auction method for allocation of coal blocks was due to change of position by the law ministry, which first stated that auction could be introduced through an administrative order, but later said a change in the existing law is mandatory.
“Audit is not in agreement with the coal ministry’s contention since the ministry of law and justice had categorically mentioned in July 2006 itself that the competitive bidding route could be adopted through administrative arrangements," the CAG stated in its report.
Going a step further, the country's apex auditor has rapped the coal ministry for trying to pass the buck some other ministry. “In fact, it was left to the coal ministry to take action for introduction of auction...” the CAG wrote.