Committee gives Indian premier Singh a clean bill
New Delhi: A parliamentary panel has given a clean bill to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the 2G spectrum allocation scam.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has brought under the scanner the role played by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), held by the then telecom minister A. Raja, responsible for keeping the prime minister in the dark.
It also chided the then finance minister P. Chidambaram for suggesting to the prime minister that the matter be treated as closed.
A provisional report prepared by the PAC was circulated on Wednesday among its members and was to come up for discussion on Thursday. The current PAC's tenure expires on Saturday.
The committee has prepared its reports despite deep divisions in the 22-member panel and wants to finish its tenure by presenting the findings.
Members of the ruling Congress party and its ally Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) have opposed the PAC saying it had crossed its jurisdiction and that there was no need to finalise the report on the 2G scam since a larger Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) had already been constituted to investigate the scam.
The PAC is traditionally headed by a nominee of the largest opposition party and current president Murli Manohar Joshi is likely to head the reconstituted PAC again.
Members of the Congress party and A. Raja's DMK are expected to oppose adoption of the draft report at its meeting on Wednesday but may not succeed.
The draft report has upheld the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) estimate that the scam cost the exchequer Rs1.76 trillion (Dh133 billion) and has suggested that the 2008 2G spectrum allocation be cancelled. It has also advocated greater powers to the Telecom Regulator of India (TRAI) along with the suggestion that all future licenses be rolled out through the agency.
The report says the PMO delayed in providing information to Prime Minister Singh and failed to keep him in the loop while Raja, currently in prison, deliberately withheld the truth.
"The PM's desire to keep the PMO at arms' length indirectly helped the Telecom Minister to go ahead and execute his arbitrary and dubious designs," the PAC report said.
It also criticised the incumbent home minister Chidambaram, who headed the finance ministry at the time of the 2G spectrum allocation, for requesting the prime minister to treat the matter as closed despite knowing the exchequer had been bled by Raja.
Shocked and dismayed
"The Committee is shocked and dismayed to know that the Finance Minister in his note dated 15th February, 2008, acknowledged that spectrum is a scarce resource and the price of spectrum should be based on its scarcity value and efficiency of using them but made unique and condescending suggestion that the matter be treated as closed. The committee believes that the ends of accountability demand that any wrongful loss cost to the government is made good and the guilty be brought to justice. The committee sees that it is most unfortunate that the Finance Minister, the guardian of public exchequer entrusted with the prime responsibility of mobilisation of resources, instead of initiating stringent action, pleaded with the Prime Minister to treat the matter as closed," the PAC report states.