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Devas deal: CAG report indicts ex-ISRO chief

A CAG audit,that specifically examined this 2005 agreement,has concluded that “undue favours” were extended to the Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia by the DoS that “bypassed several important controls”.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: May 16, 2012 12:08:44 am

The controversial,and now-defunct,agreement between Antrix Corporation and Devas Multimedia has been damned by an audit report that has held the Department of Space (DoS) and some of its former officials,most notably its former secretary G Madhavan Nair,guilty of trying to “propel the agenda of a private entity”.

A CAG audit,that specifically examined this 2005 agreement,has concluded that “undue favours” were extended to the Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia by the DoS that “bypassed several important controls”.

“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 fact that a group of individuals was able to conceal facts and side-step the Cabinet is a testimony of the extent of abuse of the trust reposed in them,” the audit report,which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday,has observed.

The agreement,that was cancelled by the government last year following an uproar,gave Devas 70 MHz of S-band spectrum on lease for 12 years to start satellite-based multimedia and information services to hand-held mobile devices. For this,the company was given almost 90 per cent of transponder capacity on two satellites — G-SAT6 and G-SAT6A — that would have been launched by ISRO. Antrix is the marketing arm of the ISRO that,in turn,functions under the DoS.

“The Devas agreement was a cherry-picking exercise in which the DoS picked and chose those elements… of contractual agreements that benefited Devas and not the government…The terms of the Antrix-Devas contract were one-sided and advantageous to Devas as compared to other transponder lease agreements,” the report said.

The report also questioned the role of G Madhavan Nair,who was secretary of DoS and chairman of ISRO when the agreement was signed. “In different capacities,Nair provided the momentum of decision making at various stages of the Antrix-Devas agreement,” the audit report observed,noting that Nair also held the posts of chairman of Space Commission,chairman of INSAT Coordination Committee and chairman of Antrix Corporation.

All these are ex officio posts that the chairman of ISRO holds. The situation has been slightly altered from last year,with the post of chairman,Antrix Corporation getting delinked from the office of ISRO chairman.

Nair,in fact,was debarred — along with three other former senior functionaries of ISRO — from taking any government positions in future,after two committees appointed to look into the Antrix-Devas deal,had come to similar conclusions about his role in the entire episode.

Pawar meets Pranab to discuss sugar export restrictions

New Delhi: Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday to register his objections to a Commerce Ministry notification that imposed conditions on sugar exports,which was approved by a high-level meeting chaired by the Prime Minister this month. “Both the Food Ministry and the DGFT (Directorate General of Foreign Trade) have issued separate notifications. There is some confusion,” Pawar told reporters before the meeting.

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