Govt loses 26K Crore due to Telecom Minister

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Govt loses Rs.26K Crore due to Telecom Minister
New Delhi: Telecom minister A Raja has made a big loss to the government by disregarding the advice of many experts and persisiting with an outdated policy for issuing new telecom licences. Central government has lost over Rs 26,000 crore due to the telecom minister, accused Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

CAG's audit of DoT relates to the issue of new pan-India licences in 2008 at Rs 1,651 crore, a price fixed in 2001 when mobile subscriber base was 45 million and industry valuations were poor. The audit said many experts, including the telecom secretary, had suggested to DoT that the award of new licences needed to be re-examined since the entry fee had not been revised from 2001. The 2001 fee was based on criteria that did not exist in 2008. The industry had grown bigger, richer and the subscriber base had soared to over 300 million from 45 million.

Raja, who has survived several calls for his removal over charges of corruption, 'single-handedly' decided to continue with the policy that cost the government Rs 26,685 crore in revenue, said CAG in its annual report.

A senior Department of Telecom (DoT) official clarified that "government decisions are taken based on merit than on immediate pecuniary considerations such as interest, profit/loss, etc." DoT also said that processing of licences is time-consuming as it involves various approvals and security clearances. CAG has sought responses from DoT on its observations.

The CBI, in an FIR filed in November last year, accused certain DoT officials and executives of some private telecom companies of collusion in a bid to get new licences. The agency said the licences were sold without competitive bidding at a nominal rate based on prices fixed in 2001, resulting in a loss of Rs 22,000 crore to the government. In its report, CAG has lent credence to some of CBI's charges.

CAG, a constitutional authority, audits all government departments and Public Sector Undertakings every year.

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