The draft report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has charged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with failing in his supervisory role and indicted the then finance P Chidambaram for skipping his mandate as the “guardian of the exchequer” by not applying correctives in the sale of 2G spectrum.
The development has sharpened the political faultlines with the UPA describing the report as a “unilateral” document piloted by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi. “The report is unilateral and undemocratic. We will allow the adoption of the report only after proper discussion,” Congress member on the panel KS Rao said. The UPA has also begun attempts to mobilise the support of the SP and BSP to oppose the report at the PAC meeting on Thursday. This would mean fireworks at the meeting.
The draft report came close to suggesting that the prime minister played the role of an “outsider” by refusing to intervene even when irregularities were repeatedly brought to his notice. “….The file (on 2G sale) was submitted to the PM on January 15, 2008 with a clarification note. The file was received back with a note from the private secretary to the PM saying that the PM wants this informally shared with the department and does not want a formal communication and wants PMO to be at arm’s length.”
This, the report said, “helped the communications minister to go ahead and execute the unfair, arbitrary and dubious designs.” Chidambaram, who is currently the home minister, came in for the sharpest criticism in the report, apart from those involved in perpetrating the scam.
“The committee is shocked and dismayed to note that the finance minister, in his note dated 15 February, 2008, acknowledged that spectrum is a scarce resource and the price of spectrum should be based on its scarcity value and efficiency of usage but made the unique and condescending suggestion that the matter be treated as closed.
The committee views it most unfortunate since the finance minister, the guardian of the public exchequer and entrusted with the principal task of mobilisation of resources for public welfare, instead of initiating stringent and swift action against all those responsible for the whopping loss to the exchequer, pleaded with the prime minister to treat the matter as closed. The committee cannot rest satisfied unless the matter is probed in its entirety and the reasons for such an unusual act on the part of the finance minister are explained to the nation,” the report said.
Reacting to the draft report, Chidambaram said: “It is Joshi’s report. The PAC will meet only on Thursday to consider the report.”
In the report, the PMO came in for criticism for not invoking the provisions under the Transaction of Business rules and referring to the Cabinet the differences of opinion between the telecom ministry and the ministry of law and justice. Economic Times