Congress asks CAG to respond to public debate on coal report

NEW DELHI (TIP): Raising questions over the CAG’s mandate to examine the profits of companies who have been allocated coal blocks, the Congress Thursday said the country’s chief auditor cannot eschew public debate started by its report on notional loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore to the exchequer. Party spokesperson Manish Tewari said criticism of the government about delay in implementing policy on auctions was unfair.

He said e auction policy for coal brought by the National Democratic Alliance government had been termed as “irrational and inequitable” by the Supreme Court and the United Progressive Alliance had formed new policies for spot auction and forward auction after proper deliberations. Tewari said the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had said in an affidavit in a court case that it had never done audit of private operators unless requested by the government.

“Did the government tell CAG that it should estimate how much coal can be extracted by private coal companies… There are large number of unanswered questions not only about methodology of audit but whether CAG would have at all conducted the audit,” he said. Referring to CAG’s stance that it will put forward its case at the appropriate forum and not respond to the debate on its report, Tewari said this would not do. ‘When you have started a debate on estimated loss, then questions on work style… answers will have to be given,’ he said.

Tewari, however, ruled out any possibility of the impeachment of the CAG. ‘You have to make a distinction between the CAG and its report. We are disputing the report of the CAG and the methodology he has adopted.’ ‘It is not inappropriate to raise legitimate questions on what the CAG has done. I do not think questioning conclusions undermines anyone’s credibility,’ he said. Law Minister Salman Khurshid said the issue of loss has not been taken up by the CAG report and it has said that a part of financial gain to private companies could have come to the government. Answering queries, he said while allocations will not be cancelled, there was normal process of de-allocation if contractual obligations were not fulfilled.

Congress sources said while the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was conducting preliminary probe in six cases of coal allocation and there were several other blocks in no-go areas or cases where allocations had been cancelled.

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