A parliamentary panel in its draft report on the 2G spectrum case has given a clean chit to Manmohan Singh but criticised the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) for delaying a letter to A Raja asking him to consult senior ministers before selling the scarce and expensive telecom radiowaves.
Approving the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report blames "systematic failure" in the government and severely indicted Raja, the then IT and communications minister, for allegedly selling second generation telephony spectrum licences to private firms at throwaway prices despite a letter from Manmohan Singh asking him to consult others, according to a panel member.
"Prime Minister's Office's role is under scanner but prime minister (Manmohan Singh) is not," the member said on condition that he not be named.
The member said the panel in its six-month investigation has found that the prime minister was kept out of the loop on 2G spectrum allocation even as he had advised Raja to consult a group of senior ministers over how to allocate the spectrum and how much to charge for it.
"The committee has brought it to the notice that there was a delay in sending the prime minister's letter to Raja. Raja took advantage of the delay and sold the spectrum at cheap rates," the member said, adding the delay was from the PMO.
Asked if the report gives clean chit to Manmohan Singh, the members said: "Yes, to some extent."
Raja and eight others, including top corporate honchos and bureaucrats, are in jail for conspiring to sell the 2G airwaves to select companies at throwaway prices. Five others, including DMK Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi, have been named as co-accused in the case.
The report has also criticised the role of P Chidambaram who was the finance minister in 2008 when the spectrum was sold.
"It was Chidambaram who pleaded with the prime minister to close the matter despite some ministers wanting stringent action against those responsible for the losses," the member said quoting the report.
The report is likely to be adopted by the 22-member panel on Thursday in its last meeting before its term ends April 30.
The report is to be tabled in parliament's next session before being made public officially.
Ironically, the 22-member panel headed by Bharatiya Janata Party's Murli Manohar Joshi has a sharp division within.
"The Congress and the DMK (Raja's party) are opposing the report. Let's see what happens," said another member.
It is likely that the DMK and the Congress members in the panel will write a note of dissent. However, their views are unlikely to be incorporated in it.