The comments by a former official of the Comptroller and Auditor General over the report on 2G spectrum allocation on Friday kicked up a row with Congress President Sonia Gandhi suggesting that the Bharatiya Janata Party had been exposed while the government demanded answers from Parliament's PAC chief M M Joshi over his alleged role.
Joshi, a senior BJP leader, rejected allegations by R P Singh, former Director General of Posts and Telecommunications in CAG, that he had tried to influence the outcome of the 2G report and questioned why the official had not spoken about it in Public Accounts Committee when he appeared before it.
"Yes, certainly I think so," said Gandhi when reporters here asked whether BJP had been "exposed" by Singh's comments.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said Joshi as also the CAG should clear the air on the issue.
"The issues raised by R P Singh, former DG, P&T, in CAG are very germane. What is extremely important is that in May 2010 when the draft report was prepared, the loss was quantified at Rs 2,645 crore, but in November 2010 when the report was presented in Parliament, this loss jumped to Rs 1.76 lakh crore. How did this leap of faith take place?" Tewari told reporters.
Giving a twist to the allocation row, Singh has said a report prepared by him contained no losses on account of 2G spectrum allocation and questioned CAG's estimates of presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore.
"After completing the audit of Ministry of Telecom, which was under my direct charge, I prepared a draft audit report covering each and every aspect. My report did not contain any loss figure," he had said on Thursday.
Tewari wanted to know as to who was responsible for increasing the presumptive loss figures and said this issue should be addressed by CAG.
"The second question is about propriety. PAC is supposed to independently exercise oversight over the reports of CAG. If what R P Singh has said is true about CAG officials actually taking assistance of PAC in the preparation of its report, does this not amount to a conflict of interest?" Tewari said.
He sought to know if this is a convention or a tradition which has been followed earlier and whether this was done officially or unofficially.
"These are questions that the PAC Chairperson, Murli Manohar Joshi, for whom I have the utmost respect, needs to answer," the minister said.
Law Minister Ashwani Kumar questioned the integrity of CAG and demanded that the truth behind its presumptive loss estimate of Rs 1.76 lakh crore be made public.
"Certainly some of the findings of CAG have now become very doubtful. People are entitled to know what is the truth that has now come out," Kumar told reporters.
Responding to the charges, Joshi said, "R P Singh's allegations on 2G report are an attempt to malign CAG and PAC by vested interests including the government."
He said, "After completing the audit of Ministry of Telecom, which was under my direct charge, I prepared a draft audit report covering each and every aspect. My report did not contain any loss figure," he had said on Thursday.
Joshi said Singh had never raised the issue when he had appeared before PAC to explain the loss to the exchequer caused by the 2G spectrum allocation.
"I wonder why he is speaking today," he said.
"Singh had made a similar statement after his retirement. But when we questioned him he denied giving any interview. He was questioned on the issue by the Joint Parliamentary Committee as well but he failed to prove anything," Joshi said.
BJP accused the former CAG official as being a "pawn in the hands of the government" and termed his comments as a "sinister conspiracy".
"This public comment by R P Singh is a very sinister conspiracy. He is a pawn in the hands of Congress and the government to defame CAG," BJP Chief Spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters outside Parliament.