The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Telecom crores squandered
- CAG unearths irregularities in equipment purchase

New Delhi, May 20: Financial irregularities worth Rs 61.08 crore have been detected in the West Bengal telecom circle, the bulk of it stemming from a deal in which Hindustan Teleprinters was overpaid as much as Rs 51.72 crore.

A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has pulled up the chief general manager of telecommunications in the state telecom circle for placing orders with Hindustan Teleprinters Ltd (HTL) at a rate higher than that approved by the head of the circle.

The circle had placed an order with HTL for procurement of main distribution frames at Rs 5.24 lakh per unit when it had the approval for purchase at Rs 4.15 lakh.

“Placement of (the) purchase order at a rate higher than that approved by the head of the telecom circle resulted in an irregular payment of Rs 51.72 crore,” says the CAG report.

The CAG has also rapped the West Bengal telecom circle for incurring wasteful expenditure of Rs 6.68 crore on the procurement of single-mode power supply plants that were found defective on their receipt in various circles between July and December 2000.

The equipment had been passed by the circle’s quality assurance wing at a pre-despatch inspection on the supplier’s premises.

The report also says the “chief general manager telecom stores, Calcutta, had procured and supplied (to the) Mohali telecom circle Punjab 206 sets of batteries during June to September 1999 without any demand, requisition and thus rendering the entire expenditure of Rs 2.68 crore waste”.

The report has also slammed the department of telecommunications and the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) for slow progress in installing village public telephones.

The report said the telecom department had failed to achieve the targets set out in the National Telecom Policy, 1999, for installing village public telephones.

The CAG said: “The review reveals that the implementation of VPT (village public telephone), overall, was very unsatisfactory; while on the one hand progress was tardy and far below targets, on the other hand, the disturbing fact was that a very high proportion of installed VPTs were non-functional.”

It has also pointed out that the government had extended undue benefit of Rs 719.63 crore to private basic fixed line operators by imposing and recovering a token amount as damages instead of imposing charges on the actual cost of setting up the rural public telephones.

The installation of village public telephones by BSNL on behalf of private operators like Bharti Telesonic, Tata Teleservices, Reliance and Hughes Ispat has resulted in undue benefit of Rs 93.17 crore to the private operators, said the report.

In a major violation of government directive, the CAG said, BSNL procured 23,070 MARR (multi-access rural radio) equipment spending Rs 184.56 crore despite the decision at the prime ministerial level to stop further procurement of such equipment. “Equipment worth Rs 8.24 crore was either not required or was not in working condition,” said the report.

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