The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) tried repeatedly to get the government’s auditor to share with him details of its audit of the controversial allocation of second-generation telecom spectrum in 2008 (known as the 2G scam), according to documents reviewed by Mint.
The internal documents of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) present a different picture to the one presented by PAC’s chairman Murli Manohar Joshi.
A 14 July 2010 note by R.B. Sinha, director general (report central), said Joshi had called him at 1.10pm on the same day and “once again desired to know the findings arising out of our audit of the records of the ministry of finance, DoT (department of telecommunications), etc., related to the issue of licences and allocation of 2G spectrum.”
To be sure, the response of both Vinod Rai, the comptroller and auditor general, and Rekha Gupta, his deputy, indicates the auditor’s intention to follow the prescribed procedure of not sharing such information. Rai told Sinha to ask Joshi to speak to him, according to the documents. “No further action needs be taken till the chairman speaks to me,” Rai said.
Joshi’s call to Sinha on 14 July 2010 came a day after another call from him to the audit official. On 13 July, Sinha wrote to Gupta saying Joshi had called asking for the audit of the spectrum allocation to be expedited. Details of that letter emerged earlier this month, following which, on 16 November, Joshi said at a press conference that he had not tried to influence the auditor or speed up the process.
“These allegations are totally false and baseless. It is an attempt with malafide intentions to malign the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee,” he said then, claiming that the call was only to enquire about the status of the report because the auditor had promised the committee on 28 January 2010 that it would submit a report within the next six months.
Joshi couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday evening, although messages were left with his private secretary.
No officials at the auditor were immediately available for comment.
P.D.T. Achary, former Lok Sabha secretary general, said on 18 November that “the Public Accounts Committee is well within its rights to ask for the assistance of the Comptroller and Auditor General, even if it is doing a parallel report that is yet to be tabled in the Parliament, but it is only to assist the committee in terms of understanding the subject. However, if the chairman of the committee has met Comptroller and Auditor General officials individually, then it is a different matter. It does not have the stamp of the Parliament”.
While forwarding the 14 July 2010 note from Sinha to Rai, Gupta wrote that “it may not be possible to either send a questionnaire or share the audit findings”, pointing out that the audit is under way. She said, “The MIP (memorandum of important points) and brief on 2G (spectrum allotment) can only be prepared on the final audit report tabled in the Parliament. At present, even the draft report is not ready. Then it has to be issued to DoT for their response.”
Gupta also said in her noting that the procedure had already been explained to PAC.
Rai, who is scheduled to appear on Tuesday before the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) investigating the allegations of irregularities in spectrum allocation, is likely to be asked about the reports that PAC sought to influence the inquiry. “We want to find out what was the connection between the Public Accounts Committee, Joshi and the Comptroller and Auditor General,” said a Congress member of JPC who didn’t want to be identified.
Mint reported on 19 November that the auditor’s internal documents show that it had adopted one of the three methods it used to calculate losses to the government on account of the 2G scam at PAC’s instance.
PAC is one of the parliamentary committees that serve as a watchdog over the government, and its primary task is to oversee the government’s accounts. JPC is one set up for a specific purpose.