Amid a deepening crisis in the telecom sector, the government is likely to hire third-party audit firms to settle the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues row, Mint reported, citing sources. This development comes on the back of differences that emerged in the individual calculations made by the government and telecom operators in terms of AGR dues, the report noted.
The DoT had previously estimated Rs 1.47 lakh crore as dues, including penalty and interest, from Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and other firms. But telecom firms say the amount should be lower. This is likely to lead to more disputes, the report said.
"The government is exploring whether it can get audit firms to settle this," sources were quoted as saying in the report.
Vodafone Idea made a payment of Rs 1,000 crore on Thursday, making a total payment of Rs 3,500 crore. According to government calculations, Vodafone Idea needs to pay Rs 50,000 crore as AGR dues, but the company believes its dues are half that amount.
Bharti Airtel has so far paid about Rs 10,000 crore for statutory dues of Rs 39,723 crore. The AGR bill is likely to rise for Bharti Airtel due to a spectrum deal with Videocon Communications nearly four years ago, according to the LiveMint report.
On October 24, 2019, the Supreme Court widened the definition of AGR to include Department of Telecommunication's (DoT) point of view and asked telcos to pay licence fee and spectrum usage charge dues. The government and the telecom companies were locked in a legal battle in the 14-year-old case over the definition of AGR, on the basis of which the telecom department calculates levies payable by companies.
The verdict inflicted a blow to the telecom sector, resulting in operators raising funds to pay dues.