In its latest attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress on Thursday alleged that the NDA government is trying to sweep a Rs 45,000-crore telecom scam under the carpet.
The party cited a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)—the audit watchdog whose report on 2G spectrum landed the Congress in deep water— to allege that six telecom service providers had under-reported their income during 2006-07 to 2009-10, leading to revenue loss of Rs 12,488.93 crore for the government.
“If loss of exchequer is calculated on the same formula for the years 2010-11 to 2015-16, the under-recovery of the government would be Rs 45,000 crore. But instead of immediately acting to recover the money, Modi government has asked for an alternative re-evaluation of CAG’s findings by Telecom Ministry’s empanelled chartered accountants,” said Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
The Congress held Prime Minister Narendra Modi squarely responsible for the alleged attempt to cover-up the CAG report. “Without the direct or indirect involvement of the Prime Minister, the telecom ministry can’t appoint chartered accountants to review the country’s top audit body,” Surjewala said.
There was no immediate reaction from the government.
Under the new telecom licencing policy rolled out in 1999, license fee for telecom companies are decided on the basis of adjusted gross revenue. Cellular service providers are also required to pay an additional ‘Spectrum Usage Charges’ (SUC), proportionate to their income. The Congress alleged that due to under-declaration of income by six cellular companies, the government lost ₹12,488.93 crore in four years and possibly lost Rs 45,000 crore till 2016.
Drawing a comparison between the 2G scam, in which the BJP-led Opposition forced the UPA government to drop telecom minister A Raja, Surjewala said, “It was just a notional loss but the BJP made a hue and cry. But now, when actual loss has taken place, the BJP is trying to bury the CAG report in the dustbin of history.”
During the UPA regime, the Congress-led government had come under fire from the Opposition over the CAG report that said 2G spectrum allocation led to a notional loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crores.
As the Congress sensed a chance to hit back at the BJP-led NDA over a telecom scandal, the party said, “This is a clear cut case of loss to public exchequer verified by CAG with the sole aim of helping friendly ‘Crony Capitalists’. In a startling revelation, the Modi Government is surreptitiously taking steps to protect the interests of six leading telecom companies by helping them avoid the payment of charges rightfully owed to the Government.”
The CAG report had mentioned Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance, Idea cellular, Tata Indicom and Aircel for understating their income during 2006-07 to 2009-10.
The CAG’s bid to check the books of these private companies was also challenged in the court but the Supreme Court ruled in favour for such an audit because the government’s income from the Spectrum Usage charges is a part of Consolidated Fund of India. And thus the CAG under Article 266 of the Indian Constitution has the right to probe the corporate books.