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PAC slams PM and PMO for letting Raja run amok

Discussion in 'National Politics' started by Osiris, Apr 28, 2011.

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  1. Osiris

    Osiris Major SENIOR MEMBER

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    NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister's Office and the PM himself have been put in the dock by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the 2G scam for their inaction despite former telecom minister A Raja leaving no doubt about his plans to go ahead with the controversial allocation of spectrum, which has now blown up into a major scam.

    Raja, the PAC pointed out, was not stopped despite his letter to the PM on December 26, 2007 spelling out his intention and awarding the licences within just 15 days after that. In its draft PAC report, prepared by the committee chairman, BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi, the focus is sharply kept on the PMO. Indeed, there are places in the report where the distinction between the PM and his office blurs.

    The strictures may appear ironic, given Singh having volunteered to appear before the very same committee.

    The report also takes to task then finance minister P Chidambaram. It says that in his note on January 15, 2008, he acknowledged that spectrum is a scarce resource and the price of spectrum should be based on its scarcity value but made "the unique and condescending suggestion that the matter be treated as closed." It says he, despite being guardian of the public exchequer, did not initiate action against those responsible for this loss.

    It questions the conduct of then solicitor general G E Vahanvati for not referring the Swan Telecom ownership structure to the corporate affairs ministry. There is now widespread admission of the fact that the Reliance ADAG group owned Swan and that made it ineligible for 2G licences, something that was ignored by Raja.

    It says in the fight between the ministries of law and telecom on whether the spectrum price issue needed to be referred to an empowered group of ministers, the PM sided with the latter: a decision which allowed Raja to have his way.

    It refers to the sequence of events leading to Raja implementing his version of "first come, first served" policy to benefit select telecom players for alleged bribes. A good 12 days after Raja sent his December 26, 2007 letter to the PMO, a note was submitted to the PM. And the PM responded to it only after the licences had been awarded. With Raja winning the day, the PM in a letter on January 15, 2008, distanced himself from the 2G issue that turned into a major scam. His desire to do so was put on record by his PS who wrote "PM wants this informally shared with the department (of telecom) and does not want a formal communication and wants PMO to be at arm's length." The reference seems to indicate the PM's wish to keep the communication off files. This desire on the part of the PM helped Raja to go ahead and execute his "unfair, arbitrary and dubious designs," the draft report says.

    The panel found no plausible reason to submit the file to the PM after 12 days, given that Raja was rushing to allot licences. It also questions the PM's defence that he had asked Raja to factor in developments (a reference to growing chorus of complaints) concerning the distribution of licences. It observes the note of PM's PS made no sense because it came on January 11, 2008, a day after licenses had been distributed.

    The panel also focuses on the unwillingness of both the Cabinet Secretariat and PMO to enforce the 2003 Cabinet decision where telecom ministry and finance ministry were to decide the spectrum pricing. Raja managed to turf the finance ministry out, and became the sole arbiter of pricing.

    PAC slams PM and PMO for letting Raja run amok - The Times of India
     
  2. Osiris

    Osiris Major SENIOR MEMBER

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    MM Joshi report slams Chidambaram, Prime Minister's Office

    New Delhi: It's an all-out war now between the members of the Public Accounts Committee that's investigating the 2G scam. Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi has prepared a draft report that slams the Prime Minister's Office and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram. In retaliation, Congress and DMK members of the committee have demanded that he resign for acting like "a BJP man and not the Chairman of the committee". Senior Congress leader KS Rao said the report is "undemocratic" and aimed at destabilizing the government.

    The 22 members of the committee are meant to meet tomorrow to discuss this draft report. Congress and DMK members say the draft was not given to them till earlier today, leaving them with little time to examine its findings.

    But the headlines of the 270-page report are easy to spot. It finds "multiple systematic failure" in preventing Mr Raja from executing the swindle.

    The report is tough on the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) which "either failed to see the forebodings or was rendered a mute spectator." In different places, the report suggests that not enough was done to stop A Raja from the DMK of abusing his office as Telecom Minister to blatantly violate guidelines while handing out spectrum and mobile network licenses at throwaway prices in 2008.

    The draft says that Dr Manmohan Singh wanted to keep his office "at arm's length" from Mr Raja and that gave "an indirect green signal" to Mr Raja to "execute his unfair, arbitrary and dubious designs." As it became clear that Mr Raja was not following the process of allocation approved by the Union Cabinet, the PAC's report states that "what further irks the committee is the reply of the Prime Minister's Office that there is no specific requirement for the PMO to enforce cabinet decisions."

    Mr Chidambaram, who was the Finance Minister at the time, fares even more poorly. The Public Accounts Committee draft report says that when it came clear that Mr Raja was not playing by the rules, Mr Chidambaram, "the guardian of the public exchequer...instead of initiating stringent and swift action against all those responsible for the whopping loss to the exchequer, pleaded with the Prime Minister to treat the matter as closed." Underscoring the point, the report states, "The committee is shocked and dismayed that the Finance Minister made a unique, condescending suggestion."

    Mr Raja is severely indicted. "His assurance to the Prime Minister that he was not deviating from the established and existing procedures was a blatant lie."

    In many ways, the destiny of the PAC was pre-ordained. Congress and DMK members have repeatedly said that the PAC is exceeding its mandate. They stress that a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has been set up to investigate the scam and to assign accountability.

    The Opposition has been demanding a detailed explanation of the Prime Minister's role. Evidence against Mr Raja suggests that he ignored the Prime Minister's advice to consult a senior group of ministers over how to allocate spectrum and how much to charge for it.

    The current PAC's term expires on April 30. The new PAC will again be headed by Mr Joshi.

    MM Joshi report slams Chidambaram, Prime Minister's Office
     
  3. Osiris

    Osiris Major SENIOR MEMBER

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    Tata letter to Karunanidhi shocks PAC panel

    NEW DELHI: The Public Accounts Committee's draft report has questioned the motive behind Ratan Tata writing a letter in praise of A Raja to DMK chief M Karunanidhi and said corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, whose firm represents the Tata group, had a "guilty conscious".

    The report said Tata's letter was a testimony to interest taken by corporate houses in allocation of portfolios, since "by his own admission, he has had bad chemistry" with Dayanidhi Maran who was in reckoning for a second stint as telecom minister.

    "The committee is surprised that a person of Tata's stature sent a personal letter to the DMK patriarch when the latter had nothing to do with framing and implementation of policies at the central level," the report said.

    "The committee considers it a sad reflection on the manner and style of governance and electoral politics and the Radia tapes only reveal the proverbial tip of the iceberg and provides glimpses of the often unreported back room deals, shady trade-offs, the role of middlemen who have acquired certain hallow of corporate wars," the report said.

    During his deposition before the PAC, which is headed by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, Tata was quizzed on whether he was advocating Raja's continuation in the telecom department. "I have stated repeatedly and would just say it again that if done well, the DMK can possibly claim telecom to be its greatest achievement for the nation's growth... What I am trying to say is that if there is a controversy of what Raja is alleged to have done, it is in the implementation of the policy. The policy of creating greater number of applicants, opening the industry to more players is not an irrational policy," Tata said. He, however, denied suggestions that he and Radia were trying to fix a Cabinet berth for Raja.

    On Radia, the report said she "gave an impression that she was predetermined not to come out with facts. "The committee feels that her reluctance to speak the truth is somehow an indication of her guilty conscious," the report said.

    The report noted that a good deal of Radia's taped conversations centered around the anxiety to get the telecom ministry for Raja.

    Radia, while denying that her job was not that of a lobbyist told the PAC that her firm's role is to communicate the client's point of view.

    Tata letter to Karunanidhi shocks PAC panel - The Times of India
     
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