Former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai has informed the Supreme Court that as much as 266 kg gold from Kerala’s Shree Padmanabhaswamy temple has gone missing during the purification process and there was no explanation for the loss.
Submitting his report on audit of accounts of the famed temple for financial years from 2008-09 to 2013-14, Rai said 893.44 kg gold was taken out and given to the contractor in this period for purification in connection with gold ornamentation works but only 627.37 kg pure gold was returned. The gold was taken out on a total of 82 occasions.
“The loss on the process was 266.27 kg (30 per cent). In the absence of a system of weighing and ascertaining the purity of gold articles before handing over to the contractor for melting and purification, temple authorities merely relied on the weight and purity reported by the contractor,” stated the report, which was recently submitted to a special bench led by Justice T S Thakur.
The report added that in addition to this, the excess loss on conversion of pure gold to 90 per cent purity gold was 10.4 kg, with a present market value of Rs 2.89 crore.
Rai also pointed out that the fate of 14.6 kg of 24-carat gold rakes and 1.9 kg of pure gold with an approximate value of Rs 4.8 crore is not known after it was handed over to a contractor more than four years ago.
“There are repeated instances of gold and silver being withdrawn from the Kallaras (temple cellars) for purification. There is no explanation for the divergence in purified gold received and large quantity going unaccounted,” said the report, adding there were several instances of total lack of control on issuance of gold and silver for purification and lack of standards to verify the purified quantity returned.
Rai has concluded in his report that the accounts “did not depict an accurate picture as to the state of assets of the temple” since the value of assets in the cellars had never been recorded. It added that the cash book revealed “large scale omissions and discrepancies”.
“Kanikka (coin) counting lacked transparency and there were cases of delay in accounting and remittance of the collection. There were also instances of not recording the receipt of gold and silver articles during Kanikka counting,” it said.
The court had on the last date directed for giving copies of the report to all the parties, asking them to respond.
Rai was in April last year appointed as special auditor in the wake of the “disturbing facts” disclosed in a detailed report by the court-appointed amicus, Gopal Subramanium. His first report in August last had seconded Subramanium’s views that there were serious “deficiencies and inadequacies” in maintenance of records and there was also a “lack of financial control” over custody and use of precious articles. A credible system for accounting was also absent.
Five cellars of the temple were opened in 2011 by a team mandated by the Supreme Court. The stocktaking had unveiled a treasure trove worth more than Rs 1 lakh crore — in the form of jewellery, idols, weapons, utensils and coins. What the court is now monitoring is a batch of petitions involving management of temple and its assets.