In a shocking development, Former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) VinodRai, deposing before a Supreme Court bench led by Justice T.S. Thakur, has postulated that gold amounting up to 266 kg may have gone missing from the Shree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerela. The CAG said that there 893.44 kg of gold was escorted out the temple for the purification process, but only 627.37 kg was returned. Apparently, no reason accounting for the loss has been provided.
Mr.Rai submitted his report auditing the accounts of the Padmanabhswamy temple for financial years 2008-09 to 2013-14. Therein, he noted that approximately 266 kg of gold may be missing from the vault of the temple, post the purification process. The gold had been taken out for an uncanny 82 number of times.
Further, the report stated, that since there was no mechanism for weighing and gauging the extent of purity of gold objects before escorting them out of the temple to the contractor, the temple authorities have merely taken the word of the contractor for it. The contractor was supposed to melt the gold and then remove the impurities from it. The total loss has been a devastating 30% (nearly) of the total value. In addition, while increasing the purity of gold to 90%, there was a loss of around 10 kg of gold, worth nearly Rs. 3 crore in market value.
The report is also replete with instances of ornaments, objects and solid gold, going missing from the Kallaras (temple cellars) after their purification was contracted out and handed over. 24-carat gold rakes weighing nearly 14.60 kg and nearly 2 kg of pure gold (approximate value worth Rs. 5 crore) are unaccounted for ever since the contractor responsible for their handling took them 4 years ago. A complete dearth of transparency and standards is witnessed in contracting out the purification of gold and silver and the consequent verification of the purified stock of gold and silver.
Mr.Rai has questioned the accuracy of asset value of temple’s belongings stating the account books of the Shree Padmanabhaswamy temple has failed to provide the correct picture. Value of most assets have not even been calculated or entered into the account books. Even the cash book discloses a plethora of omissions and deficiencies in accuracy.
There is a palpable scarcity of transparency in counting Kanikka (coin) and laxity in accounting or remitting the stockpile. Several gold and silver ornaments and objects have not been recorded as received during the counting of coins-the report stated.
Earlier, in April last year, after amicus curiae GopalSubramaniam had disclosed a slew of “disturbing facts”, Mr.Rai was appointed special auditor; his initial report backing Mr.Subramaniam’s claim of discrepancies, deficiencies and a purported lack of financial control or a proper system of accounting.
In 2011, a team appointed by the Supreme Court opened 5 different cellars of the temple, which was purported to contain assets worth more than Rs 1 lakh crore. At present, the court is supervising a slew of petitions with respect to a temple’s and its assets’ management.
by Siddhartha Singh.