Exactly a week after he made an offer to appear before the Public Accounts Committee probing the 2G spectrum allocation scam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday wrote to the PAC expressing his readiness to face it.
Dr. Singh sending a letter to PAC chairman Murli Manohar Joshi, a senior BJP leader, coincided with the appearance of the Comptroller and Auditor-General Vinod Rai before the committee. It was the CAG report that projected a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer in 2G spectrum allocation in 2008, whipping up a political upheaval that ultimately led to the resignation of Telecom Minister A. Raja last month.
“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,” Dr. Singh said in his letter.
Reacting, Dr. Joshi said the PAC would take an “appropriate decision at an appropriate time.”
On December 20, Dr. Singh told the Congress plenary here that he had nothing to hide from the public at large and in proof of his bona fides he would be happy to appear before the PAC if it “chooses to ask me to do so.” He told the delegates: “I sincerely believe that like Caesar's wife, the Prime Minister should be above suspicion and it is for this reason that I am prepared to appear before the PAC even though there is no precedent to that effect.”
Under the rules of procedures and conduct of business in the Lok Sabha, the PAC cannot call a Minister to give evidence or for consultations in connection with an examination of accounts by it. The PAC Chairman, may, however, have an informal talk with a Minister on the subject under consideration by the panel.
In this case, the Speaker may have to devise a procedure on how the PAC could accept the Prime Minister's offer to appear before it. Dr. Singh said that to the best of his knowledge, the PAC took evidence from the Secretaries of the department concerned or the head of the department or 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. It 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,” Dr. Singh said in the letter.