The government may have the Controller General of Accounts (CGA), which functions under the finance ministry and maintains the accounts of Union ministries, audit the accounts of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), said two persons familiar with the development.
“The government wants to audit CAG’s expenditure,” said one of the persons. “Currently, there is no independent audit.”
Both the persons spoke on condition of anonymity.
The proposed move comes in the backdrop of a slew of critical reports by the government’s statutory auditor, pointing to irregularities in the allocation of radio spectrum, the purchase of aircraft by state-owned Air India and an oil exploration deal with Reliance Industries Ltd. The United Progressive Alliance has been fighting allegations of widespread corruption.
A CAG spokesperson declined comment, while a CGA official pleaded ignorance.
Experts said such a decision, if taken, may not be received well.
“That gets more dangerously close to saying that if you throw bricks at us, we’ll throw them back at you,” said well-known lawyer Harish Salve. “I think there needs to be a public debate on CAG being audited.”
“There has to be some in-house check on the working of CAG, especially as some recent media reports have shown that there was internal dissent on the 2G (spectrum) issue. I think CAG needs to be audited, but that doesn’t mean the independence of the institution is lost,” he added. “For that matter, the Supreme Court and Parliament are audited by the finance ministry, but they are independent institutions. CAG least of all should have anything to hide. In principle, if the accounts of CAG are audited, I don’t think there is anything wrong.”
Mint had first reported internal dissent in CAG on quantifying the loss to the exchequer in the alleged 2G telecom scam.
But such a move may have political repercussions.
“In the public eye, it will only be seen as an attempt to intimidate a constitutional body trying to expose corruption,” said G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, political analyst and member of opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s electoral reforms committee.
In June, former comptroller and auditor general V.K. Shunglu, who headed the committee that investigated alleged irregularities in the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games, raised the issue of auditing CAG. Shunglu had recommended an external audit of the auditor under the supervision of Parliament’s public accounts committee.
CAG currently does not have a dedicated internal wing to audit its functioning. However, it conducts an annual audit by a senior officer and is currently undergoing an external audit by the Australian National Audit Office, said a CAG official, who requested anonymity.
CAG had undergone a similar exercise in 2003, which was conducted by the UK’s National Audit Office. The findings of these reports are not available in the public domain.
“How can CGA audit us?” the CAG official asked. “It is not an auditing body and we audit the accounts book of ministries prepared by them.”
“I think there is a need for a performance audit of CAG, in terms of the internal guidelines, audit mechanism, etc.,” said A.K. Thakur, former deputy comptroller and auditor general and a member of the Shunglu panel. “But it should not be done by any government agency. It should be an independent organization.”
“Had I been the CAG, I’d have asked an independent body to do both performance audit and financial audit,” Thakur said.
The Federal Government’s inability to effectively manage its national spectrum resources is causing the nation significant economic losses in terms of lost revenue generation and foreign direct investment opportunuties, analysts have said. Proper allocation of spectrum bands, according to the analyst would enable telecommunications companies roll out innovative mobile broadband services.
Analysts say the Federal Government has remained passive to the incidence of poor spectrum management, even in the light of the importance of broadband to economic development. According to them, an increase in broadband penetration from 1 percent to 10 percent, would invariably raise the country’s annual gross domestic product by 1.22 percent by 2015.
“I will score them low here. Nigeria ’s low internet penetration can be attributed to poor spectrum management. We are aware that broadband is a driver of all sectors, it makes all the sectors to be more productive. From education, energy, health etc. Spectrum is required for broadband services but these frequencies are not readily available. The 3.5GHz spectrum is very suitable for broadband but it’s under the control of the Nigerian Broadcast Corporation (NBC).
“Even spectrum within the purview of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is still not properly allocated. The cost of spectrum is still very high for local operators and that explains why foreign operators dominate the market.
“There should be a deliberate policy to encourage local operators”, Lanre Ajayi, past president, Nigeria Internet Group, said in an interview. It was reported recently that the NCC may award four spectrum licences before the end of 2011. The report further disclosed that four telecoms companies will be licensed on the 2.5GHz spectrum by 2011, while two telecoms operators would be licensed on the 700MHz spectrum in two years.
Much is yet to be seen from the telecoms regulator. The GSMA, a global body representing the interest of mobile operators has also predicted that Nigeria ’s wireless broadband market will have a direct revenue impact of N598 billion in the next three years.
A source at the NCC, who asked not to be mentioned because he was not authorised to comment, said the NCC was working assiduously to develop a comprehensive policy that would ensure that spectrum resource is optimally utilised for the overall benefit of the nation. He however did not comment on when the commission would commence issuance of spectrum licenses. Over the last decade, investment in telecoms has exceeded $18 billion, out of which about $12 billion is from FDI, while the balance is from local investors. There are suggestions that the government realised well over N300 million from the sale of spectrum. Industry analysts argued that the telecoms sector is missing out on such economic gains.
The telecoms markets’ capacity to attract investment, according to the analysts would depend largely on a positive regulatory ambiance created by the government, as it relates to spectrum management and infrastructure development. Recently, Barack Obama, president of the United States of America (USA) ordered that an additional 500 MHz of radio spectrum be made available for licensing over the next 10 years. Obama said wireless broadband connectivity was important to America’s economic prosperity. Analyst have urged Jonathan to take a queue from Obama, noting that there was need to meet the demand for spectrum as a result of the fast growth of data services on mobile networks.
“The 2.3 GHz award process has been mired in controversy for over a year. More than two years have passed since 2.5 GHz was proposed to be offered by the NCC, and negotiations over its use are yet to be concluded. There is a lack of clarity over when the vital Digital Dividend spectrum will be passed to the NCC for use by operators, which could dramatically increase mobile broadband coverage”, Ross Bateson, spokesperson for GSMA said. He said the NCC should ensure that spectrum is made available quickly and with maximum transparency, using international harmonised band plans. “ Nigeria started by selling spectrum at very high prices. It will seem that the NCC had brought in better revenue for the government.
“The telecoms consumer will pay for this at the end of the day. There are some people who believe that the 2.3GHz award process was not transparent. In most cases, spectrum falls into the wrong hands who are not really ready to roll out broadband services. Due to the fact that they are connected in government, they buy this spectrum to re-sell to make profit”, an analysts who pleaded anonymity said. Telecoms operators had earlier expressed concern that rural communities will be denied access to efficient and affordable broadband services due to federal governments’ inability to efficiently manage our national frequency spectrum resources. Adewale Jones, vice president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), said: “I will not score them high.
I think the major challenge we have today is that quite a number of people involved in spectrum management do not understand the technicalities involved. Quite a number of people responsible for managing this national resource do not have the requisite knowledge to deal with the complexities inherent in spectrum allocation and re-farming. If you think about Nigeria ’s desire to connect 50 million people to the internet by 2015, then there is need for effective spectrum management to make this happen. This is because wireless broadband requires spectrum.
“Effective spectrum management will facilitate the use of spectrum in the interest of the nation and also ensure that adequate spectrum is provided to all users, public and private, long and small, in both the short and long term. If demand exceeds availability; therefore, sharing it is not only necessary, efficient management is highly required”, Shola Taylor, chief executive officer, Kemilinks International said.
Monday, 19 September 2011
Syracuse University Professor Milton Mueller was awarded $152,700 by the NSF for the first year of his research on “Deep Packet Inspection and the Governance of the Internet.” The research grant was made by the Science, Technology and Society program of the Social, Economic and Behavioral Science Directorate of NSF and will take place over two years (academic years 2010-11 and 2011-2012). Deep packet inspection (DPI) is a new network surveillance and traffic analysis capability that enables network operators to scan the payload of TCP/IP packets in real time and make automated decisions about whether to intercept, block, slow down, speed up or otherwise manipulate traffic streams based on that information. Mueller’s research will investigate whether the use of DPI by Internet service providers is producing major changes in the way users and suppliers of Internet services are governed.
The project will contribute to an understanding of how new technological capabilities interact with politics, public policy, regulation, and law. Drawing on research literature in science, technology and society studies (STS), Internet governance studies and political science, it will test and improve theories about the co-production of technology and governance institutions, especially theories which assign agency to technological artifacts.
DPI has a variety of applications. It is most commonly used for bandwidth management by Internet service providers, and thus has figured prominently in policy debates over network neutrality. Copyright holders have sometimes advocated its use for combating illegal file sharing because of its claimed potential to recognize copyrighted material as it moves through the public network. DPI can be and has been used to censor content, most notably by the Chinese. It has also been used by the US and Iranian governments to monitor Internet traffic for national security purposes. DPI can be used to profile Internet users and contribute to the implementation of behavioral advertising as well. Each of these use cases provides the basis for two case studies in different countries. The method of executing the case studies is based on a new conceptual framework for analyzing the interaction of technological capabilities and the process of public policy development.
“This is a great opportunity to contribute some hard data and systematic analysis to a better understanding of the way Internet governance is evolving in response to new networking technologies,” said Principal Investigator Milton Mueller.