In an unprecedented move, Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai has rejected suggestions from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the auditor has transgressed its mandate by questioning policy issues, evoking a strong reaction from the government and the Congress.
Rai, in a letter to the Prime Minister, referred to Singh's press conference in which he had said that it is not right for the CAG to go into issues which are not its concern.
"I wish to clarify that during my tenure none of our audit reports have commented on policy issues, nowhere does the (2G) report ever make references or comments on formulation of policy by the Cabinet," Rai said in his two-page letter.
Responding to the development, Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy said it was "unfortunate that nowadays, CAG is coming into focus.
Infact, I saw from the media that when some reports were prepared and it has to be sent to the ministry, the Auditor General's deputy has been showing it to the public as if it is a document which a political party is releasing as its manifesto."
While acknowleding that CAG is a constitutional authority, which is an independent body, Narayanasamy told NDTV they have to work within the framework given to them.
"They have no business to criticise the government and make random observations," he said.
Congress spokesperson Renuka Chaudhary said "there is a spirit where we all work collectively. He (Rai) could have gone and met the Prime Minister gracefully."
Referring to leakages of reports from CAG office, Rai said "...there could have been leakages from my office or from the concerned ministry. Since I have no assurances, I am not making any assertion."
On the issue of CAG holding a press conference, Rai said in his letter to the prime minister, "I have never held a press conference in my tenure."
He said there has been a media policy laid down in the office of Comptroller and Auditor General since March 2006 "to objectively explain the audit reports to the media after these reports have been laid in Parliament/State legislatures".
"Instructions issued by the then CAG on March 16, 2006 continue to guide press briefings of the department," he said.
He clarified that "this practice was questioned in the Chennai High Court in 2004. The High Court upheld such factual press briefings after the Report has come into public domain."
On the much-hyped 2G report, Rai said, "whle accepting the Government's prerogative to formulate the policy of UASL, it was felt that an in-depth examination of implementation of such policy needed to be done."
Rai said the audit examination revealed that the DoT did not implement the licensing regime as approved by the Cabinet in 2003. DoT had also ignored the advice of the Finance Ministry, which had questioned the sanctity of continuing with a price determined in 2001 without any indexation or current valuation and advised review of the same.
Rai clarified in his letter, "The opinion of the Ministry of Law to take the matter to EGoM was also ignored. The Report also draws attention to how the prime minister's suggestions were not followed. The principle to be followed was of `First come first served'."