Dayanidhi Maran hijacked spectrum pricing, CAG tells JPC

NEW DELHI: The country’s national auditor has told the Joint Parliamentary Committee probing the allocation of mobile licenses over the last decade, that Dayanidhi Maran was instrumental in ensuring that the telecom ministry had complete authority to fix the price of airwaves or spectrum, overturning an earlier arrangement in which a group of ministers had responsibility.

“The Cabinet decision of 2003 had given an equal role to the Finance Ministry in the matter of deciding the pricing formula for spectrum. A GoM was constituted in 2006 to discuss carious aspects relating to spectrum, including its pricing. However, at the instance of the telecoms department (DoT) the terms of reference were revised to keep pricing out of it,” the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India said in its presentation to the JPC .

The auditor’s report further adds that the finance ministry had resisted its ouster from the decision-making process on spectrum, but the DoT, then headed by Dayanidhi Maran, prevailed by ‘maintaining that spectrum pricing was within the normal work carried out by them’. “DoT’s view prevailed, ignoring the Cabinet decision of 2003′, its presentation added. ET has a copy of the CAG’s presentation to Joint Parliamentary Committee.

A person close to Maran said that the final instructions shifting the power to price spectrum to DoT were issued by the cabinet secretary after consulting the Prime Minister. He declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The CAG in its report submitted to Parliament in November 2010 also said that excess airwaves to incumbent GSM telcos beyond the contracted limit of 6.2 MHz units for free had caused a loss of over Rs 38,000 crore to the exchequer. These airwaves were awarded during Maran’s tenure. Maran, who was the telecoms minister between 2004 and 2007, has categorically denied all allegations against him.

In May 2007 Maran had to quit when he and his brother were sidelined by the then Tamil Nadu CM, M Karunanidhi, following an intra-family tussle. The Marans later reconciled with Karunanidhi. The CAG also said the former telecoms minister was in violation of the 2005 guidelines of his own ministry which said that mobile permits or licences must be issued ‘on continuous basis within 30 days of their receipt without any restriction on the number of players”.

The auditor said that the telecoms ministry under Maran delayed 14 of the 15 applications it received by 608 to 969 days. The second set of 9 applications were delayed by 232 to 421 days while the third set of 29 applications were not processed at all ‘without any reason/justification and without sending any communication to the companies involved’, the CAG added.

The national auditor did not reveal the names of the companies whose licences were delayed by Maran, but DoT records reveal that the list included the applications of Aircel. ET had reported on Tuesday that former Aircel promoter Sivasankaran had told the CBI that Maran had deliberately delayed clearing the telco’s applications for mobile permit thereby ‘forcing’ him to exit the venture by selling a controlling stake to Maxis.

( Source : The Economic Times )