Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai's estimates of alleged 2G spectrum losses had initially varied between Rs 2,645 crore and R4.19 lakh crore, before pinpointing Rs 1.76 lakh crore in the final report.
But Rai failed to explain before the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) how the Rs 1.76 lakh crore figure was picked over the others, strengthening the criticism that it is an arbitrary figure without any scientific logic or objective rationale.
Caught on the wrong foot with Congress member Manish Tewari's questioning, Rai, according to the minutes of the JPC proceedings on November 15, failed to explain for instance, why the loss was pegged at Rs 1.76 lakh crore and not a figure more or less than this amount.
Former deputy CAG RP Singh, who termed the Rs 1.76 lakh crore figure as "mathematical guess", had quantified the loss to the state exchequer at Rs 2,645 crore on the basis of cost indexation and Rs 5388.19 crore as per an offer made by Airtel.
"It looks strange that finally figures which are indeed very large — and I would not use the word 'sensational' — are picked, and a figure which is "conservative"... is left out... it seems very awkward," Tewari said.
Rai replied, saying, "If we had to really make it sensational, we should have use(d) the Tata Teleservices figures also."
The CAG report mentions that if the loss caused by the allotment of dual spectrum to different companies and allotment of additional spectrum to existing players by former telecom minister A Raja is taken into account, it would put the figure at Rs 4.19lakh crore.
Tewari further confronted Rai. "You cannot selectively cherry pick up figures. There has to be a nexus of reasonableness… If you have decided to leave a particular figure out, why did you do that. Please provide us with the justification."
A defensive Rai said, "We have used it and cherry picking by the authority that you are talking about does not take place in this department."
"The fact that there has been a loss ... in the allocation of 2G spectrum cannot be denied. However, the loss amount could be debated," Rai said.
On few occasions, Rai sought more time to make available some documents to the JPC.