In the latest round of confrontation between the two sides, the government has bluntly refused to provide "relevant papers" to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) related to the allotment of 2G spectrum licences during the 2003-2006 period, official documents show.
The cold war appears to have reached a flashpoint with the government asking the CAG whether it has the mandate to seek documents of policy matters and the country's apex auditor hitting back, saying it has "unassailable powers to protect the rights of the people."
According to a stunning disclosure by CAG Vinod Rai before the Joint Parliamentary Committee last week, the DoT declined to provide the documents sought by the CAG despite repeated reminders.
Rai reportedly told the JPC this was why the CAG could not audit the telecom accounts between the 2003-06 period.Official documents accessed by the HT show that following the DoT denial, the CAG wrote to the cabinet secretary in May this year, "seeking files and documents to expand the scope of the audit before 2006."
The cabinet secretary shot back asking the CAG on June 3, whether "it had the mandate for widening the scope of the audit." The government relied on the law ministry's opinion given last year that "telecom sector is treated as an infrastructure sector and decisions taken by it are policy decisions. Therefore the CAG has no power to challenge the policy decisions..."
The CAG hit back at the cabinet secretary on June 10, stating : "The provisions contained in the CAG Act, 1971, confers it with unassailable powers regarding the timing, scope and extent of audit..."
The government, however, chose to ignore the letter.
The CAG is set to raise the matter before the JPC once again. "We are likely to summon the CAG once more and would also seek a reply from the government on why these documents were not provided for audit," said a JPC member.