The joint parliamentary committee (JPC) on Mon-day virtually put Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai on the mat by questioning whether he had gone beyond his constitutional mandate and looked into government policy while pegging the presumptive loss from the allocation of 2G spectrum at R 1.76 lakh crore.
With members questioning the maintainability of the CAG report, Rai asserted that he had acted within the CAG’s constitutional mandate while admitting that the body does not go into policy matters.
The core issue, according to members, was how CAG could peg a notional loss when the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had taken a policy decision not to auction spectrum and policy is not a subject matter of audit. They also asked whether the CAG had taken the government's policy prescription into account before putting a figure for the presumptive loss.
The CAG report — which had come out with three bands of figures, including the R1.76 lakh crore estimated loss, based on factors like 3G multiplied to 2G volume and market value of some beneficiary companies offloading their shares — had led to a furore. The opposition slammed the ruling party over the loss while Congress rubbished it.
Amid questions whether a determination by the JPC on whether CAG had overreached itself would create a situation of breach of privilege or impeachment, panel chairman P C Chacko quickly said: “The JPC has still to reach a qualitative judgment...There is no clash between the JPC and the authority of the CAG.”
Rai, who was deposing before the JPC on the allocation and pricing of telecom licences and spectrum from 1998 to 2009, is likely to be called again once the JPC gets the information and documents it has sought, including the action taken reports on the four CAG reports (of 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2010), whether CAG had taken DoT’s opinion and replies to over a hundred questions it has sought from the telecom department.
The JPC will meet again on June 7 to hear the CBI director and on June 8 to get evidence from TRAI and the ministry of finance.
There were two spells of heated exchanges during the meeting. The first was at the outset when BJP's Yashwant Sinha-who had offered to depose before the panel — expressed his annoyance that notwithstanding the Speaker's decision, Chacko had raised questions about him being on the panel in view of his role in framing the NDA's telecom policy.
CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta exploded when his assertion that the constitutional mandate of the scope of CAG's report needed to be read alongwith convention was contested by Congress's Manish Tewari.