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Millennium Post

CAG’s expanding ambit promising

Now that the three major power distribution companies in Delhi are under CAG audit, with probing eyes also targeting the private telecom companies after the Delhi high court order, looks like it’s time for the private sector to sit up and take notice. Naturally, with the UPA government tinkering with the cost audit rules in the newly created Companies Act, the private sector companies had just exhaled a breath of relief and were preparing to get away with crores of rupees of the public money citing bad loans and non-performing assets. But with the augmented powers of the CAG, the billions of dollars eaten up by the private power and telecom companies might just be netted and some semblance of transparency in their dealings might be instituted. It is therefore a much welcome step on the part of the AAP government to bring BSES Rajdhani and BSES Yamuna, both owned by Anil Ambani-led Reliance Infra, as well as Tata Power, which together supply electricity to most of the national capital’s residential users, under the strict scrutiny of the CAG officials. This has indeed opened up a remarkable channel of keeping a tab on monetary transactions at every level, total distribution and per unit consumption, as well as meter readings, thereby creating a direct correlation between the cost and price of power in the city. Since at the heart of the ordered audit on discoms and the categorical declaration by the Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung that there will be no licence without CAG nods, is the severe financial crisis of the companies and transferring the burden onto the consumers in the form of inflated bills, with BSES companies failing to deliver as per standards. While power supply has bettered since the privatization of power in 2002, the financial crisis and hiked prices have been a constant concern with the people of the national capital.

On the other hand, the scrutiny on telcos are based on the the controversial issue of adjusted gross revenue of telecom service providers, which determines the licence fee and spectrum usage charges that the telcos must make to the government. That companies have been severely under-reporting their revenues in order to bring down the charges, in addition to the huge losses accrued by the public exchequer owing to the drainage in the notorious 2G spectrum telecom scam, are reasons enough for the Delhi HC ruling, which the telecos are likely to bitterly contest in the apex court. Given the five major private sector telecom companies routinely flouted norms and misquoted their profits to hoodwink the government, the CAG audit becomes not just essential, but practically mandatory for any honest transaction to happen. In addition, that these companies have also been evading staggering amounts in taxes, furthering the burden on the public exchequer, has also not escaped the authorial eyes, with figures pointing at over Rs 10,268 crore lost between 2006 and 2008. Given that the union ministry of telecom was hand in glove with the private perpetrators of the 2G scam, there must be a growing demand in the media to further expand the CAG’s wings, which has become the last refuge of the ordinary citizen and honest officials in the country.
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