The Comptroller and Auditor General has lodged a protest with the Finance Ministry over the Goods and Services Tax Network’s refusal to share details of taxpayers’ information on its database for review and audit, The Times of India reported. The GSTN is a special-purpose private company established to provide IT support to streamline the implementation of the new tax regime and also serve as a repository for all GST-related data.
GSTN has declined to provide the federal auditor access to information on the grounds that the CAG did not have the authority to exercise the same rights with the private firm as it could with public entities. As a result, the CAG has approached the Finance Ministry for access to the network’s data.
The GSTN also maintained that it was merely a “pass through portal”, and that states and the Central Board of Excise and Customs had the original data filed by taxpayers. The CAG, however, dismissed the claim, saying GSTN was the “primary location” where all information on taxes paid under the new levy would be stored. “It is from here that the data is selectively pushed to CBEC and states. It is therefore essential for the CAG to access the data lying at the primary source for performing its constitutional mandate,” the auditor said, according to The Times of India.
The CAG also argued against the GSTN’s defence of being a private entity, saying the Centre had “strategic control” in the network even though it held minority stake in the firm. It stressed that the special-purpose vehicle was “performing a part of the statutory functions pertaining to revenue collection on behalf of the Centre and states”, and therefore could not deny the CAG access to its data.