CAG castigates Dept of Space on Antrix-Devas deal
The CAG has come down heavily on the Department of Space, particularly on its former Secretary G Madhavan Nair, in the controversial Antrix-Devas deal alleging numerous rules and policies were violated and facts concealed to favour a private company.
New Delhi: The CAG has come down heavily on the Department of Space, particularly on its former Secretary G Madhavan Nair, in the controversial Antrix-Devas deal alleging numerous rules and policies were violated and facts concealed to favour a private company.
"The Antrix-Devas deal is a classic instance of failure of the governance structure in which selected individuals, some serving and some retired public servants, were able to successfully propel the agenda of a private entity by arrogating unto themselves, powers which they were not legitimately authorised to exercise," the CAG report said.
The Comptroller and Auditor General highlighted the alleged conflict of interest in the multiple roles exercised by Nair, saying this could have been avoided if different persons were appointed to crucial posts to ensure checks and balances.
The CAG report, which was tabled in Parliament today, also criticised the Department of Space (DoS) for its failure to explore the revenue potential of 70 MHz of S-Band spectrum earmarked for Devas for an infinite period.
On the role of Nair, the report said as Chairman ISRO he appointed the Shankara Committee to examine the proposals of M/s Forge Advisors and as Secretary, DoS, Nair submitted a note to the Union Cabinet in which critical facts were concealed.
As Chairman, Space Commission, he chaired meetings where approval to GSAT-6 adn 6A satellites was accorded, it noted.
"He failed to convene INSAT Coordinatin Committee meetings as its Chairman, as a result of which, concerns of key stakeholders, represented through respective Secretaries of Ministries/Departments, were effectively blocked off in the decision-making process," the CAG report said.
The CAG said the same person holding multiple posts of Chairman ICC, Chairman Space Commission, Secretary DoS, Chairman ISRO and Chairman-cum-Managing Director, Antrix clearly led to a conflict of interest.
"Since the damage that this could do has been very clearly brought out, among others, by the High Powered Review Committee, it is evident that the government would have to ensure that the same person does not hold all the crucial posts and different functionaries are appointed to ensure checks and balances," the report said.
It said that the DoS "went beyond its remit" as laid down in the Allocation of Business Rules, "concealed facts" from the Union Cabinet and "violated" numerous rules, policies and procedures.
"Public interest and those of the government were sacrificed to favour a private consultancy firm which was promoted by D Venugopal and M G Chandrashekhar, retired employees of ISRO," the report said.
It said the DoS took upon itself the task of approving the new hybrid S-DMB service which as in the case of DTH services was the prerogative of the Union Cabinet.
"The Department of Space, while seeking approval of the Union Cabinet for the launch of the GSAT-6 satellite in November 2005, suppressed the crucial fact that it had signed an agreement with only one user i.E. Devas and not with different users as mentioned in the Cabinet note," it said.
Further, to avoid obtaining of approval of the Union Cabinet, DoS estimated the cost of GSAT-6A, the subsequent satellite of a similar configuration after GSAT-6 at Rs 147 crore so that it fell within the financial competence of the Space Commission, the CAG report alleged. The cost of GSAT-6 was Rs 269 crore.
The CAG also said that in earmarking 70 MHz of S-Band spectrum for an indefinite period to Devas, the DoS had ignored its revenue potential to the government.
"Subsequent events like the auction of 3G in which the government received Rs 67,719 crore and the auction of Broadband Wireless Access where Government received Rs 38,543 crore revealed that the possibility of obtaining commensurate amounts for providing this commercial service was never explored," it said.
The CAG said that the special treatment to Devas was also reflected in the fact that the DoS decided to use the country-specific scarce orbital slot at 83 deg East for two co-located satellites, to be used exclusively by the private customer.
It pointed out that the DoS also went on to even revise the contract to "reassure the investors" so that even before engaging in any trading, manufacturing, ground segment development activity and rolling out of any services Devas could raise an amount of Rs 575.76 crore from foreign investors.