The government auditor CAG has pulled up the department of telecommunications (DoT) for not utilising funds of over Rs 18,000 crore collected for promoting rural telephony and giving false picture about the unused sums.
"A total universal levy of Rs 26,163.96 crore was collected during 2002-03 to 2008-09 by the DoT, but a disbursement of only Rs 7,971.44 crore was made from the fund during the period," the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in its report on the Union government's performance.
The closing balance of the USO fund as on March 31, 2009, the report said, should be Rs 18,192.52 crore and not 'nil' as shown in the DoT accounts.
The corpus of the universal service obligation (USO) fund, which was set up by the government in 2002 to promote rural telephony, is collected through a levy of 5 per cent of adjusted gross revenue from telecom operators.
The fund is administered by the DoT. The levy received towards USO fund is first credited to the Consolidated Fund of India and subsequently the Centre credits such proceeds to the USO fund in the Public Account of India from time to time, for being utilised exclusively for meeting the USO.
The fund was created with the objective of utilising the proceeds exclusively for meeting the universal service obligation by providing access to telegraph services to people in the rural and remote areas at affordable prices.