Govt blames CAG for flop 2G auction

Sensationalism led to tepid response

Govt blames CAG for flop 2G auction

The Centre on Friday sought to hold the CAG responsible for “killing” the telecom sector by putting the presumptive loss incurred in the 2G scam at Rs 1.76 lakh crore, thus shifting the blame on the audit body for the tepid response to Wednesday’s auction.

Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, who addressed a joint press conference with Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tiwari on Friday, said institutions should allow the government to formulate policies and implement them.

“You cannot extrapolate figures and sensationalise them and destroy the hen that laid the golden egg. Sensationalism took over and the government was limited in its policy prescriptions which have resulted in what we saw a few days ago,” Sibal said.

He was apparently referring to the CAG’s 2010 audit report stating that the exchequer incurred a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore since erstwhile telecom minister A Raja allotted the 2G spectrum in 2008 on a first-come-first-serve basis, instead of taking the auction route.  

The BJP and CPM strongly opposed the Centre’s stance against the CAG and said the UPA government is trying to belittle the country’s highest institution.

The CPM also alleged that collusion between the government and corporate houses resulted in the lukewarm response to the auction.

Junking allegations that the government was celebrating the failure of the auction to substantiate its zero loss theory, Sibal said: “We are sad with the situation. But the government is confident of garnering Rs 40,000 crore from spectrum sales as auction will continue for the unsold circles till March end.”

Rejecting observations that Wednesday’s auction was a flop show, Sibal said the government has earned Rs 17,343 crore through spectrum sale. This included Rs 9,407 crore from the sale of spectrum in 18 circles and the one-time fee amounting to Rs 7,936 crore.

“So there is a net gain, there is no doubt about it,” Sibal said, adding that the government raised more than Rs 1 lakh crore from the auction of 3G spectrum, which was used by the CAG to assess the presumptive loss. “But the customer got nothing as there was no roll-out of 3G services.”

“Where are those Rs 1.76 lakh crore?” Sibal said. However, emphasising that neither he nor Chidambaram had criticised any institution, Sibal said: “We have just talked about the environment that was created through a process of sensationalism. Please don’t take this as a criticism of any institution.” Condemning the Congress and the UPA minister’s attempt to heap insult on the CAG, the BJP said it was “disgusting, unfortunate and undemocratic.”

Party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar, however, told reporters that the auction actually vindicated the CAG findings “as only 22 licences have fetched about Rs 200 crore through auction than allotment of 122 licences in 2008 on a first-come-first-serve basis.”

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