Attending a press briefing, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac admits to having broken procedure by releasing the CAG report but adds that he is willing to face the consequences. During his press conference on Saturday, November 14, the minister had claimed that the draft CAG report was attacking KIIFB without taking inputs from the state government.
Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala had addressed the “procedural lapses” followed by Thomas Isaac while revealing the report. The latter should have presented it in front of the assembly before bringing it to the public domain. The report had stated that KIIFB’s borrowing had been “unconstitutional” and the minister said that such a claim was to stop the developmental activities in the state.
On November 11, the CAG had released a press release stating that they had submitted the final report on November 6 and that it was to be presented in front of the assembly. However, the minister had continued to claim that it was a draft report. Today, he admitted that it was the final report, and he believed that it was draft because the CAG had not contacted the state when it came to the auditing. The minister alleged that the CAG had added four pages to the report that hadn’t been discussed with the state, and that led to him to assume that it was a draft report.
However, the minister was adamant that the issue at hand wasn’t on whether the report was final or draft, but whether the UDF agreed with the findings. The minister said that the report had made some false claims regarding the state’s liability in regards to KIIFB. The minister claimed that contrary to CAG’s claims, the borrowings are not off-budget but at the same time, KIIFB’s liabilities are not the state’s liabilities since the Board makes sure to adjust their liability with their earnings. Moreover, while the state had to take the Centre’s permission to get foreign funds, KIIFB being a corporate body doesn’t have to follow the same protocol and it can be directed at the state, as the CAG report did.
Adding to the woes of the government, the opposition has alleged that KIIFB has more backdoor employment than anywhere else. Ramesh Chennithala had alleged that around 150 temporary appointments were made through the backdoor. Suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar’s Chartered Accountant P Venugopal was also part of the audit team. The minister claimed that he had been employed through tenders after making sure to invite certified candidates. Moreover, former Chief Secretary Tom Jose and Finance Secretary Manoj Josh had taken a stand against masala bonds (the borrowing of foreign money in Indian currency, thus exchange loss). They had argued that we could get money for lower interest within the country, then why take masala bond for a larger interest.