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CAG rejects audit meet records
August, 31st 2009

CAG has accused the oil ministry of circulating records of two crucial meetings without its concurrence or confirmation on the issue of auditing the expenses incurred by private companies, in developing oil and gas fields, including a BG-led consortium and Mukesh Ambani's RIL.

With the companies developing oil or gas fields in which the government has substantial financial stakes, CAG's principal director of audit has refused to accept the records sent on August 24, telling the ministry that they do not fully reflect the discussions that took place or take into account the government auditor's prerogative and views.

The meetings, held on August 17, were called after CAG said it had problems accessing records of private operators but did not name any group. The statement was part of a denial to a posting on the website of exploration regulator DGH, claiming CAG had completed audit of RIL's field. The DGH posting was put up a day after Anil Ambani reiterated charges that RIL was artificially jacking up cost of developing the Andhra offshore field.

One meeting pertained to the audit of Panna-Mukta and Tapti fields operated by BG in partnership with RIL and state-run ONGC. The other meeting discussed RIL's Andhra offshore field, identified as KG-DWN-98/3.

Expressing reservations over the record on RIL's field, the CAG letter said, "The understanding of our audit team was that during the meeting, the contractor's representative expressed considerable reluctance to provide access to records for the previous years till 2006-07 and no dates for the entry conference were discussed or decided during the meting... such a conference will have full purpose only when we have documented clarity about our exact audit access. So far, we have not received any such written confirmation of such access."

TOI had reported on August 24 that RIL had, after the August 17 meeting, written to the ministry the same day to accept CAG audit as a "one-time exception". Responding to a TOI query, the company had said it had done so voluntarily for the sake of transparency.

Regarding the Panna-Mukta-Tapti fields operated by a BG-led consortium of RIL and ONGC, the letter said the "unilateral" statements of DGH, on merging scope of audits, was opposed by CAG officials but did not find mention in the records. "You would be aware that the CAG is an independent constitutional authority, and we would be entirely responsible for deciding the scope, extent and coverage of the audit," the letter said.

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