The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has started considering the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report on the coal scam here on Friday.

CAG Vinod Rai defended his report strongly before the panel, even as the Congress members tried to question its content and direction. The Coal Ministry, represented by senior officials, also attacked the CAG’s report.

Sources in the panel said the CAG said the auditor would not have done his duty if the windfall gains to private companies were not mentioned in the report. He said three prices of coals were available before the panel and it went by Coal India’s price for coal from opencast mines.

The CAG said it had three exit conferences with the Coal Ministry and there was no basis to say that the Ministry’s views were not considered.

Rai told the panel that it was former Coal Secretary P.C. Parakh who said the process of coal block allocation was not transparent and the Government should go for open bidding of the coal blocks.

He said it was the policy of the Government and no one had contradicted it till date, and added that if that was not the view of the Government, the Secretary’s views should have been contested in the file concerned.

Justifying its decision to focus in the period after 2004, the CAG said while 175 blocks were allotted after 2004, just 41 blocks were allotted between 1993 and 2004.

The Coal Ministry officials pegged their defence in the statement by the Prime Minister in both Houses of Parliament.

The Congress members argued that the value of rupee started depreciating after the CAG’s report on the coal scam.

In reply to this, the CAG said the auditor was doing its duty by reflecting the financial gains to private players. He added that the auditor did not make any comment on policy, but was reproducing the arguments by the former Coal Secretary and the Law Ministry.

jigeesh.am@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 21, 2012)
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