The draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the alleged irregularities by the petroleum ministry and oil regulator in auditing capital costs besides allowing concessions to leading private companies like Reliance, Cairn Energy and BG — operating India’s largest oil and gas fields — is not the only document indicating such lapses.
According to documents and letters with HT, despite repeated attempts by individuals and agencies since 2007 to the highest government authorities pointing out irregularities over price and other concessions given by the petroleum ministry to Reliance in KG-D6 and Cairn in Rajasthan oil field, they got no response from the government.
Even efforts under the RTI Act to secure information were stonewalled and directions from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to petroleum ministry and the Cabinet Secretariat, as recently as April 2011, to provide information over cost details related to KG-D6 block, have been overlooked.
“Wait for our response, the ministry is preparing its comments to the draft CAG report,” a senior petroleum ministry official told Hindustan Times. The spokespersons of Reliance and Cairn declined to comment.
The ongoing CBI enquiry —initiated in 2009 — on charges against petroleum regulator Director General of Hydrocarbons for accepting favours from Reliance to approve the company’s overstated capital costs for developing KG-D6 (India’s largest gas field) is just one pointer in this direction.
At a press conference on Thursday, CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury pointed out that various letters by CPI (M) Rajya Sabha member Tapan Sen since 2006 to then petroleum minister Murli Deora and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue of the government’s KG-basin contracts with Reliance — causing losses to the public exchequer — did not receive any response. The most recent of all is a June 13 letter from EAS Sarma, former secretary power, and now secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The letter gives details of various unsuccessful attempts by Sarma to secure information over the cost details of Reliance’s KG-D6 basin, by filing applications under RTI Act before both Cabinet Secretariat and the petroleum ministry. After having written six letters to the Prime Minister and CAG pointing out the irregularities in cost estimates given by Reliance, Sarma said his attempts to get information through RTI were scuttled.
He said that after being driven from pillar to post, he approached the CCI, which on April 4, 2011 directed both Cabinet Secretariat and the petroleum ministry to provide the information. But neither of the two departments have complied with CCI’s order so far.
“I have had to struggle for this information for more than 18 months,” Sarma wrote in his letter to the PM, adding that all his attempts to point out these irregularities have been foiled.
“The manner in which PMO, petroleum ministry and the other agencies have kept silent on the irregularities pointed out by me and the manner in which the cabinet secretariat and the petroleum ministry have stonewalled my RTI efforts give me the uneasy feeling that the various government agencies including PMO are apparently trying to hide the facts from the people of this country to benefit the oil companies. I hope it is not true.”