Confirming the worst fears of the UPA government, the public accounts committee of Parliament headed by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi has in its draft report on the 2G spectrum scam slammed the prime minister’s office (PMO) and the cabinet secretariat for their failure to rein in former telecom minister A Raja.The draft report has pointed fingers at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his "desire to keep the PMO at arm’s length, which indirectly helped the communications minister (Raja) execute his unfair, arbitrary and dubious designs".
The Congress and DMK have already rejected the findings of the committee.
On then finance minister P Chidambaram, the draft report, reportedly heavily influenced by Joshi, notes: “The committee is shocked and dismayed to note that the finance minister, in his note dated February 15, 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 unique and condescending suggestion that the matter be treated as closed”.
The report states that the PMO’s reply that no suggestion of the then law minister HR Bhardwaj to set up an empowered group of ministers was received by them does not convince the committee.
“The PMO was very much aware of law minister's suggestions but the counter view of the communication minister got overriding preference to the law minister's view for some unknown reasons and, thus, no effort was made by the PMO to initiate the process of constitution of the EGoM.”
The report has charged Raja with consistently misleading the Prime Minister. “The PM was misled when he was informed by the minister that the issue of auction of spectrum was considered but not recommended by the telecom commission and by the TRAI. The minister was saying half truth, concealing the other half, concealing his ulterior design,” the report said.
Based on the evidence of some former officials of the telecom department, the draft report has pointed out that both the PMO and cabinet secretariat did not perform their duties properly.
"The committee wonders if it is not the duty of the PMO or the cabinet secretariat to enforce cabinet decisions in letter and spirit. Who else is entrusted with this responsibility?”
Coming down heavily on the government’s top law officer, attorney general GE Vahanvati, the report has asked the law ministry to take a serious view of how he managed to give an opinion directly to Raja in violation of rules and in direct contradiction of the stand taken by the ministry.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is the only UPA leader to be praised in the report. In a note to the PM, Mukherjee had revealed that he had categorically remarked that while issuing new licences, the criteria for grant of licences may be strengthened and put in public domain at the earliest.