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Mainstream, VOL L, No 51, December 8, 2012

Statement by Retired IAAS Officers on the Ongoing 2G Controversy

Wednesday 12 December 2012

DOCUMENT

The signatories to this statement, who are a group of retired officers of the Indian Audit and Accounts Service, are dismayed and distressed at the reported statements by R.P. Singh, the former DG, Telecom Audit, another retired IAAS officer, which has the potential of under-mining the effectiveness and credibility of the Audit Department to which he had the honour of belonging until recently. Without questioning R. P. Singh’s motivations, we condemn his action in the strongest possible terms.

According to him, the 2G Report is not his Report as he did not support the loss figures as contained in it. Obviously it is indeed not and cannot be his Report. All Audit Reports are the CAG’s Reports and are submitted to the President of India and Parliament over the CAG’s signature. The vast organisation under the CAG, including R.P. Singh, assists the CAG in discharging his constitutional responsibilities, and has no separate existence of its own.

R.P. Singh has expressed his reservations about the figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crores. The Report does not claim that this is the right or definitive figure. It is only one of three numbers in the Report, arrived at on the basis of different assumptions and methodologies as clearly explained in the Report. The intention was to bring out the seriousness of the flaw in the decision-making process of allocation of the 2G spectrum. That the decision-making in this case was flawed is amply proven by the facts that a Cabinet Minister has been in jail and is only out on bail, the CBI is investigating possible corruption cases, and the Supreme Court has cancelled 122 licences.

That the failure of the 2G auction in 2012 has no bearing on the CAG’s Report is obvious and well understood. If the market for 2G spectrum in 2007-08 had been as bad as it apparently is now, there would hardly have been any question of corruption.

The government’s motive in taking advantage of the failure of the 2G auction and resuming its campaign against the CAG at this stage is clearly to try and discredit the Audit Reports on all other matters, particularly the one on coal block allocations. This is evident from the Finance Minister’s statement drawing from the 2G auction failure the conclusion that the numbers in the coal allocation Report are ‘myths’. It is that campaign that R.P. Singh has chosen to support.

He makes a grievance of the fact that his draft was edited and changed at the headquarters of the Department. This is normal in all bureau-cracies. Comments or objections or reports initiated from the field offices may be modified or sharpened or toned down or even dropped at the Headquarters. There is nothing sinister in this. It happens in the case of all reports. The CAG’s office at the Headquarters has a responsi-bility to make sure that the draft report is worthy of signature by the CAG and submission to the President of India. To make sure of the quality of the report there is a system of peer review of the draft by a group of senior officers.

R.P. Singh himself is said to have sat in on the peer review of his draft report. That process may result in changes in the draft report. Once that process is completed and the CAG has approved the draft, the initiating DG has to sign the Report. That is normal departmental procedure. Not only did Singh sign the Report, but he is also reported to have made a power point presentation on the 2G Report to the Public Accounts Committee. How then can he come forward with reservations at this stage? Besides, his reservations are of no consequence. By signing and submitting the Report to the President of India, the CAG has taken full responsibility for it.

As for Singh’s insinuations of undue interference by the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in the preparation of the 2G Audit Report, the reports and extracts published in the media reveal nothing improper. The CAG has in the past been described as the friend, philosopher and guide of the PAC, and interac-tion between the two is hardly surprising. The PAC had taken up its examination of the 2G case well before the submission of the CAG’s Report, and in that process, was in contact with the CAG. The Chairman, PAC was anxious to present its own report quickly after the CAG’s Report, and wanted the CAG to expedite his Report. His request for an advance communication of audit findings before the formal submission of the Report was politely turned down. The extracts published in the media establish the firmness and correctness of his decision. There is therefore no question of any impropriety involved on the part of the CAG or his organisation.

May we also express our surprise at Shri Manish Tiwari’s demand that the CAG should engage in a public debate with him over the 2G Report. Extensive consultation with the Ministry or organisation concerned takes place at the draft stage. Once a Report has been finalised, signed and submitted to the President, there is no question of the CAG debating it with anyone. In fact once the Report is submitted and is laid on the table of the House, it becomes the property of Parliament and is not open for debate in any other forum. The CAG has only to assist the PAC in its work. Any such debate outside Parliament and that too involving the CAG, who is a constitutional authority, would in fact be an impropriety. In the 2G case, the PAC has already discussed the Report. We are sure that Shri Manish Tiwari is well aware of all this. Knowing very well that it would not be proper for the CAG to enter into a debate with him, he has issued the challenge probably with a view to forcing the CAG to say ‘No’ and then using that negative response to further damage the institution. His demand for a debate must therefore be dismissed as not deserving serious consideration.

Finally, the unprecedented, prolonged and fierce campaign by the government and the Congress party against the CAG is a deliberate assault on a functionary regarded by Dr Ambedkar as the most important functionary in the Constitution.

The purpose of the campaign is clearly to cripple that institution permanently. This is tantamount to an attempt to damage a crucial pillar of the basic structure of the Cons-titution. We respectfully bring this to the notice of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

Ramaswamy R. Iyer, former Secretary, Government of India; S. Krishnan, former Additional Secretary, Govern-ment of India; R. Parameswar, S.C. Anand, B.P. Mathur, J.N. Gupta, all former Deputy CAGs; Other Senior Retired
Officers of the Indian Audit and Accounts Service.

[New Delhi, November 28, 2012]

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