Sparks fly over CAG report critical of Kerala govt entity

Thiruvananthapuram

The warring LDF government and the UDF opposition have opened another front to carry on their fight: a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on alleged irregularities in the market borrowings of controversial government entity KIIFB.

Kerala Infrastructure Inve­stment Fund Board (KIFFB) has been a sticking point between the government and the opposition, with the latter alleging large-scale corruption in its operations, including financial deals.

An upcoming CAG report, which has not yet been placed in the state assembly, has found serious breaches by KIIFB, particularly with its market borrowings, including a masala bond issue floated on the London Stock Exchange. The report concluded the KIIFB issue was unconstitutional.

State finance minister Thomas Isaac took the unprecedented step of calling a press conference on Saturday and attacking the CAG, alleging its conclusions were politically motivated. He even accused the CAG of acting on behest of Congress and BJP.

There is a dispute over whether the CAG report is the final version or if it is only a draft, to which the state government is expected to respond point by point. Isaac says it is only a draft, in which event it is widely seen premature to subject it to public discourse.

According to accepted practice, any document that is the property of the assembly, cannot be discussed outside be­fore it is presented in the assembly. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala took serious objection to the finance minister’s action and threatened legal action and complain to the President for the gross violation of constitutional norms.

Chennithala claimed Isaac’s conduct amounted to seeking anticipatory bail about what the CAG report would expose when it is finally presented in the house.

The state government has been opposed to the idea of a comprehensive CAG audit of the operations of the controversial statutory body, insisting as per rules only a limited CAG audit is warranted as KIIFB operations are audited under another arrangement by the state government.

Opposition has attributed this opposition to the alleged large-scale corruption going on in the operations of the organisation. Allegations of kick-backs in the deals entered into by KIIFB have been rampant.

Thomas Isaac continued his broadside against CAG, holding another press conference on Sunday, to level serious political bias against the national auditor. He sought to draw a parallel between the current controversy and the Lavalin case, involving CM Pinarayi Vija­yan, which also originated in the findings of a CAG report.

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