TDSAT declines relief to private telecom operators on CAG audits

As per the TRAI Act, the accounts of private operators can be audited by CAG and this provision was also incorporated in the licences of these players

In a blow to private telecom operators, who have been demanding that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) be stopped from vetting their account books, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has declined interim relief, saying it had no powers to intervene, reports PTI.

Four leading operators, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Tatas and Reliance Communication (Rcom), besides state-run company Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL), have been asked by the CAG to submit their accounts books for the last three financial years to ensure that they were paying what is due to the government in terms of licence fee.

The private operators, who were earlier subjected to a special audit after the government observed some irregularities related to fee payments, have been saying that CAG has no jurisdiction to audit the accounts of private operators and hence moved the tribunal.

Declining to grant any interim relief to the petitioners (private operators), the TDSAT said: "The power of CAG is an independent one flowing from a statutory rule and not out of a contract qua contract."

As per the TRAI Act, 2002, the accounts of private operators can be audited by CAG and the same was also incorporated in the licences of these players.

The operators had prayed for quashing of this order as also the one by Department of Telecom (DoT), directing them to submit their books to CAG.

CAG, however, said that it was not auditing the books of accounts of the private telecom service providers per se, but only those records which are related to the determination of their adjusted gross revenues to determine whether the share of revenues being paid by them to the government was correct.

Hence, in effect, CAG is auditing the receipts of the DoT which are payable to the consolidated fund of India to certify itself that the government is getting its due shares of revenues from these private service providers, it added.

The judgement quoted Tata Teleservices raising several constitutional issues in regard to validity of the said rule under which CAG can audit the books.

It said: "The recent communication of DoT asking us to provide our accounting records for period of three years starting from 2006-07 for an audit by the CAG is a matter of surprise and concern for us.

"We submit that a fresh audit so closely on the heels of the special audit by DoT appointed independent auditor is unwarranted and will result in duplication of efforts, time and waste of resources," it said.

The provisions of the CAG Act, 1971, which set out the duties and powers of the CAG pertains only to the audit of accounts of the Union or the states or government companies or corporations. The audit of accounts of private companies such as ours is not a part of duties and powers of the C&AG, one of the petitions said.

Tatas said that "It is therefore requested that while DoT can call for our books of accounts, the audit of those does not fall with the purview of the CAG."

While rejecting their plea for interim stay, TDSAT admitted their petition.



Food inflation rises marginally to 16.49%

On a weekly basis, onions turned expensive by 5.73%, potatoes by 0.95%, fruits by 0.41% and vegetables by 2.41%

Food inflation rose to 16.49% for the week ended 8th May, mainly due to high prices of vegetables and fruits, reports PTI.

Inflation rose by 0.05% from 16.44% in the previous week.

On a weekly basis, onions turned expensive by 5.73%, potatoes by 0.95%, fruits by 0.41% and vegetables by 2.41% while prices of urad and moong rose by 2% each.

On an annual basis, pulses turned costlier by 33.65% and fruits by 17%.

Food inflation had breached the 20% mark in December.

During the week, prices of non-food articles declined by 0.35%, as raw rubber prices sank 7% and linseed fell 2%.

Fuel prices remained steady over the week, but rose 12.33% on an annual basis.


Power tariff to rise by Re1 per unit: Minister

On Wednesday, the government hiked natural gas prices by more than 100%, to $4.20 per mmBtu

Union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde today said that power tariff would go up by about Re1 per unit (kWh) owing to the government's decision to hike gas prices last evening, reports PTI.

"The power tariff would go up. We have not worked out the details, but it is likely to be about Re1 per unit," Shinde told reporters on the sidelines of a FICCI event.

Power tariff is regulated by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC).

On Wednesday, the government had hiked natural gas prices by more than double—to $4.20 per million metric British thermal unit (mmBtu).

The Cabinet also hiked the price of gas sold to power, fertiliser and city gas projects from Rs 3,200 per thousand cubic metres ($1.79 per mmBtu) to Rs 6,818 per thousand cubic metres ($3.818 per mmBtu), information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni said in a Cabinet briefing.

The new gas rate would result in 2.75% increase in power tariff on an overall basis, and up to 20% hike in the price of compressed natural gas (CNG) for automobiles.

CNG currently costs Rs 21.90 per kg in Delhi.




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