Comptroller and Auditor-General of India Vinod Rai on Monday appeared before the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to give his views on the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

Appearing before the 22-member committee led by Murli Manohar Joshi for about five hours, Mr. Rai is understood to have given details about how CAG reached the figure of “presumptive loss” incurred by the exchequer due to irregularities in grant of licences and 2G spectrum to companies in 2008.

He reportedly explained how the four different “presumptive loss” figures were reached that put the potential loss between Rs.57,666 crore and Rs.1.76-lakh crore. The CAG report was tabled in Parliament on November 16, 2010 and subsequently handed over to the PAC, which comprises of MPs from almost all parties.

Briefing journalists here, Mr. Joshi said Mr. Rai told the PAC that the figures were arrived at using the “best practices” applied internationally. Stating that the figure of presumptive losses could be debated as to whether to take the lowest amount or the highest amount, the senior BJP leader said: “The committee will examine the issue and reach its own conclusion on the appropriate losses.”

Referring to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's letter to the PAC offering to appear before it, Mr. Joshi said: “The PAC has no power to summon any Minister… But this case is different because the Prime Minister has himself offered to appear. This is not a case of summons.”

During the PAC meeting, Congress members reportedly insisted that Dr. Singh be called for “consultations,” while non-UPA members are believed to have cited rules and procedures to claim that they do not permit the Prime Minister's appearance before the committee.

Referring to the BJP's demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the entire issue, Mr. Joshi, a BJP MP, said the PAC Chairman did not belong to any party. “It [JPC probe] was for the government to decide … that does not come within our purview.”

Asked if the PAC could go into the issue of telecom licences from 2001 covering the BJP-led NDA regime too, as directed by the Supreme Court to the Central Bureau of Investigation in the case, Mr. Joshi said: “If it is required we will ask for it. At present we are going into the recent development of 2G and 3G. If needed we can go into the past. The PAC is independent in itself to probe. CAG report is an expert advice for us. We value it. If necessary we can go beyond it.”

The PAC head also disagreed that it was acting hastily into 2G issue. “It [PAC] had started looking into the matter in 2009 when Gopinath Munde was its Chairman. We are not rushing through it ... we are working as per schedule,” he said.

In its previous meetings, the PAC has already sought explanations and opinions through oral deposition and written submission from officials of Department of Telecom, Finance Ministry and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India besides experts in the telecom sector.

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