New Delhi: Senior BJP leader and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Murli Manohar Joshi has refuted allegations made by former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) official RP Singh, saying that he has the authority to call any official to get information. Mr Singh had accused the PAC Chairman of unethical behaviour by getting in touch with the CAG while preparing his report on the 2G case.
When asked if he denies that officials from the CAG's office came to meet him on April 26, Mr Joshi told NDTV, "Totally, people come to my house when I call them... I have the authority to call any officer... Not only CAG officer, I can call any officer. I have being calling officers, they have to explain things to me... If I need a file, CAG officers come and show it to me... I need information on the basis of the report."
"Whomsoever I call they will come... I can't say on specific date who came and who didn't come but, Mr Singh was not there he himself says that... then how does he know that there was a meeting and people came and didn't come," Mr Joshi said when asked if people from the CAG office came and met him on the specific dates that Mr Singh had mentioned.
Mr Singh had also questioned the national auditor's estimates of presumptive loss figure of Rs. 1.76 lakh crore in the 2G spectrum allocation. He said that according to him, the loss due to the first-come-first -served policy followed by the government was Rs. 37,000 crore and this too, he said, was entirely recoverable. (Watch: RP Singh on CAG's report on 2G)
The government has always contested the CAG's estimated loss figure.
The former auditor's claims sparked a furore with Congress and Left leaders demanding a reply from the BJP, as well as the CAG. When reporters asked UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi whether the BJP had been "exposed" by the former auditor's revelations, she said "Yes, absolutely I think so."
He has also questioned the timing of Mr Singh's revelations, "...don't know why RP Singh has spoken out now. It's a conspiracy by the Congress and other vested interests just to malign the CAG and the PAC."
"I said I will quit because it's a challenge to Mrs Gandhi. She said we are exposed, I can say, 'Sorry madam, you are exposed'," he told NDTV.
But Mr Singh's charges put the BJP leader into a tight corner, with the government as well as the Congress and the Left saying that they must be investigated.
"The allegations must be probed. It is a serious issue. These allegations will be discussed in Parliament," senior Congress leader and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said on Friday.
The DMK wants this matter discussed in Parliament and has conveyed this to Mr Kamal Nath. The party is expected raise this issue in the Business Advisory Committee on Monday. The Samajwadi Party too wants a discussion on the issue.
The Left also demanded that Mr Joshi explain his role. "The allegation that he influenced the report is very serious. Murli Manohar Joshi should explain his position," said CPI's D Raja.
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad termed the allegations against Mr Joshi as "baseless," and said, "Why did not RP Singh say anything for a year. He is a pawn in the hand of the government and the Congress. This is a conspiracy. They just want to weaken the CAG and they repeatedly want to raise questions and allegations against the CAG."
What RP Singh Claims
Mr Singh has disowned the CAG report saying he was kept out of the report-making process while it was being finalised. Mr Singh said that the loss figures that he calculated were recoverable, and that in the final stages of the report, he was not even consulted by his supervising officers.
"After completing the audit of Ministry of Telecom, which was under my direct charge, I prepared a draft audit report covering each and every aspect ... My report did not contain any loss figure," he said.
Mr Singh further added that his report carried "two types of figures which indicate the less recovery" based on Rs. 1,658 crore that was charged for giving out pan-India licence along with spectrum.
"Another figure which I had indicated not as exactly as a loss but that amount that can be recovered. I found some people having more spectrum than what is provided under contractual agreement," Mr Singh said.
He said that his report mentioned that Rs. 37,000 crore can be recovered from those holding excess spectrum.
The CAG report, which was tabled in Parliament in November 2010, had pegged the revenue loss to the exchequer on account of allocation of 2G spectrum in 2008 at whopping Rs. 1.76 lakh crore raising a political storm that led to sacking of Telecommunications Minister A Raja and setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the issue.
The controversy over the 2G spectrum allocation also led to the cancellation of 122 licences by the Supreme Court. The issue took a different turn when the recently concluded auction of 2G spectrum evoked lukewarm response and the government managing to garner only Rs. 9,407 crore.
Several central ministers including Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Telecommunications Minister Kapil Sibal had described the CAG's loss estimate of Rs. 1.76 lakh crore as "mythical".