Jaipal Reddy says will reply to CAG queries later, calls Joshi “headline hunter”

The petroleum minister Jaipal Reddy has refused to respond to the points raised by the draft CAG report, but ridiculed the BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi for being a “headline hunter.”

“I would not like respond to the points raised in the draft report. We are to give considered replies,” he said.

On the issue of whether the government lost a lot of money to private contractors due to faulty checks and implementation of laws, he said he has an open mind on it and has not reached a conclusion yet.

“I have no position on this.. This is not a question of prestige.. We are exchanging notes,” he said, in comments that are likely to irk his predecessor Murli Deora.

“I am one of those who believe that the ministry, the media and the CAG are on the same side.. to ascertain the truth.. The ministry and the CAG should not be adversarial, but be complementary.. If there are valid criticisms in the final report.. we should take corrective measures,” he added.

But, all the same, he pointed out that the draft was not a final report. “The CAG would send the draft report with an open mind, with a view to getting the ministries response,” he pointed out.

A very chilled out Reddy refused to rise to the bait when a journalist leadingly asked whether he was concerned about the leakage of the CAG report. He said he was not “very concerned” about the leakage of the CAG report. The CAG report had blamed lax government scrutiny for letting private companies make big profits at the expense of government revenue.

He, however, had harsh words for Murli Manohar Joshi and seemed to hint that his criticisms and “unseemly haste” to condemn the oil ministry were an attempt to shore up his own position in the BJP against younger challengers.

“The spectacle of an octagenarian parliamentarian hunting for headlines is not very edifying.. he should leave this to younger parliamentarians,” he pointed out. He also criticised him for dragging in issues such as the high price of Reliance gas approved by the empowered group of ministers.

He alleged that Chidambaram was unfairly singled out. “Chidambaram was serving as a member of the eGom… If he is criticised individually.. decisions cannot be taken by the GoM and eGoMs.”

“If this is the way criticisms are mounted, it will be difficult to take big decisions.. Everyone will pass the buck. Our development will suffer,” he said

He also pointed out that the oil ministry was open to the idea of changing the multiples-based approach to calculating the return of the private oil and gas contractor, such as Reliance.

Under the current system, any private contractor can take X times what he spends in exploring and developing an oil block. This number, in case of the D-6 block, would ultimately come to around 4 times over the expected life term of 8 years or so. Because of this, it is alleged, contractors try to spend as much as possible because they know that whatever they spend, they can get four times or five times that amount under their contract with the government.

Reddy pointed out that ‘multiples formula’ was devised way back in 1996 and he has an open mind with regard to exploring a better way of sharing the risks and rewards of the oil exploration.


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