PM writes to PAC chairman, says ready to appear before panel

NEW DELHI: Following up on his unprecedented offer, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has written to the Public Accounts Committee probing the 2G spectrum allocation scam, expressing his readiness to appear before it.

On a day when Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai, whose report projecting a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer in 2G spectrum allocation created a storm, appeared before the PAC, Singh made the offer in a letter to its Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi of the BJP.

The Prime Minister had at the Congress plenary on Monday last declared that he was prepared to appear before the PAC since he had nothing to hide.

“…in view of recent propaganda that the Prime Minister is unwilling to be questioned by a Parliamentary committee, I would like to inform you that I am willing to appear before the PAC should the Committee choose to seek clarifications from the Prime Minister, though I believe there is no precedent of the Prime Minister appearing before a PAC,” Singh said in his letter.

Under Speaker’s direction 99 under the rules of procedures and conduct of business in Lok Sabha, the PAC cannot call a minister to give evidence or for consultations in connection with the examination of accounts by it.

The chairman of the committee, however, may have an informal talk with a minister on the subject under consideration by the committee.

Since the Prime Minister’s offer is unprecedented in its nature, the Speaker may have to devise a procedure on how the committee could accept the Prime Minister’s offer of appearing before it.

Singh said that to the best of his knowledge, the PAC takes evidence from the Secretaries of the Department concerned or the head of the department or the public sector undertakings.

He said the CAG submitted the report on the issue of licensing and allocation of 2G spectrum by the Department of Telecommunications, which was tabled in Parliament in November last and the PAC was looking into it.

“As you are aware, the PAC has sought copies of correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Minister of Communications and Information Technology as well as the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of Telecommunications on issues relating to 2G and 3G spectrum”, he said in his letter and hoped that the relevant documents have been furnished to the Secretariat of the Committee.

Addressing the concluding day of the Congress plenary, Singh took everyone by surprise when he said he would be “happy to appear” before the PAC though there was no precedent and he intended to write to Joshi in this regard. .
“I wish to state categorically that I have nothing to hide from the public at large and as a proof of my bonafides I intend to write to the Chairman of the PAC that I shall be happy to appear before the PAC, if it chooses to ask me to do so,” Singh had said.

Contending that the Opposition was “falsely propagating” that government was shying away from JPC to prevent the Prime Minister from appearing before it, the Prime Minister had said that he has “nothing to hide from the public”.

The CAG report has proved to be quite an ammunition for the Opposition, including the BJP and Left parties, to target the government and it is insisting that only a Joint Parliamentary Committee can bring out the truth in what they allege is the “biggest scam in independent India”.

The entire Opposition stalled proceedings during the month-long Winter Session of Parliament on the demand for JPC into the 2G spectrum scam that resulted in a washout of the session.

A Raja, who has been questioned by the CBI in connection with alleged irregularities in the spectrum allocation, was forced to resign on November 14 as Telecom minister.

-PTI

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