In ‘tell-all’ book, A Raja questions motive behind CAG’s 2G report
A Raja spent 15 months in prison and was acquitted last month of charges that he rigged the allocation of 2G mobile spectrum in what was then regarded as one of India’s biggest scams and had led to his resignation.india Updated: Jan 15, 2018 07:32 IST
New Delhi Former telecom minister A Raja has said the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) ignored clarifications from his ministry and kept “wailing about spectrum auction” during audits that were the basis of a 2010 report, the findings of which eventually came to be known as the 2G scam.
Raja spent 15 months in prison and was acquitted last month of charges that he rigged the allocation of 2G mobile spectrum in what was then regarded as one of India’s biggest scams and had led to his resignation. His ‘tell-all’ book is set to be released on January 20.
“…the CAG having decided that ‘Audit reiterates that specific value of 2G spectrum could have been discovered only through an efficient market drawn process’ had developed illusion of grandeur that he could mandate government policy,” Raja writes in 2G Saga Unfolds, referring to Vinod Rai, who was the CAG during 2008-2013.
Rai did not reply to phone calls and a text message seeking his comments on Raja’s allegations.
“Rai continued to skirt constructive discussion on the matter and kept wailing about ‘spectrum auction’. It would perhaps have been in the public’s better interest to investigate Rai’s motivation to rush into this ‘hunt’ almost blatantly ignoring decisions and recommendations of TRAI, the Union Cabinet and Telecom Commission!” Raja writes in the book.
Shortly after his acquittal on December 21, Raja said “the presumptive loss” theory in the CAG report was “cooked-up”. The presumptive loss refers to a figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore that the CAG said was potentially because 2G spectrum was not auctioned.
ON CAG’S MANDATE
Raja questions how the CAG took inputs from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which was conducting a criminal probe into the allocations, for its report. “Where is the sanctity of articles of responsibility and separation of duties between CVC (Central Vigilance Commission), CBI and CAG – 3Cs as Rai dubs them in his book?”
Raja writes that the CAG can test present policy and the way it being implemented but “it is not expected to frame an alternative policy”.
“However in the 2G audit CAG Vinod Rai had strong opinions (and perhaps external motivations) against the policies implemented and hence orchestrated the actual investigation, the framing of the report and the media interactions in such a biased manner as to sensationalize the situation and rile up public – and unfortunately as consequence even the Supreme Court,” the book says.
In the preface of the book, Raja states that he completed the manuscript in December 2016 but kept it under wraps to ‘avoid unnecessary criticism and debate from various corners’.
His publisher Narendra Kumar said the former minister started writing when he was in jail after being arrested by the CBI on February 2, 2011.
Raja refuted the CAG report’s claim that DoT did not consult with the ministry of finance on fixation of entry fees for new licensees.
The ex-minister also said that it was a “blatant lie” that a key meeting of the Telecom Commission to discuss applications for licence and pricing of spectrum was postponed from January 9, 2008 to January 15. New licenses were issued on January 10.
Raja states that the January 9 meeting’s agenda was to discuss spectrum usage charges for existing telecom providers. “Entry fee and handling of pending (new) applications were not all at on the agenda,” says Raja who adds that it could be verified even with a cursory reading of Telecom Commission Memo of January 9.
The former telecom minister writes that an exit conference was held on May 20, 2010 between the CAG team and department of telecom (DoT) officers to discuss the audit findings where it was decided that the “word ‘loss’ needs to substituted when mentioning the issue of non-revision of entry-fee (for issuance of licenses) from 2001 to 2008.
Officials from both teams were supposed to meet again for a better understanding of the different issues involved, he says, “but still the follow-up meeting that they (CAG) had promised was never scheduled and Rai chose to ignore these points when releasing his final report.”
He writes: “In spite of all the communication and clarifications from the ministry, CAG also eventually went ahead and obtained some documents directly from CBI thus further compromising the Telecom Ministry’s ability to respond holistically to all the audit findings/allegations. Even the professional courtesy and expected due process of seeking TRAI’s (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) viewpoint was not observed prior to the release of the CAG report.”