New Delhi, Nov 23 (IANS) A former CAG official, who dealt with the 2G audit, Friday rubbished the Rs.1.76 lakh crore ($35 billion) presumptive loss findings and claimed that BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi influenced the final audit report, giving enough ammunition to the Congress to take a dig at the opposition party.
The day began with retired CAG director general R.P. Singh coming before the media to claim he only pegged the 2G loss at Rs.37,000 crore, but when the final report was brought to him for signing, it had the Rs.1.76 lakh crore as the loss figure.
Singh also claimed that Joshi, parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman, had spoken to the CAG officials a day before it was made public, implying that the BJP leader influenced the final report on the loss figure.
"This loss figure (of Rs.1.76 lakh crore) did appear before me in a draft audit report submitted by my field office. I discussed it with them. I asked for supporting documents... on what basis they were saying these are losses. They said: 'We are taking it as presumption'," Singh told a news channel.
Singh said the loss figure, according to his report, was around Rs.37,000 crore and the amount was recoverable.
"These were presumptive losses; you can dispute these as they are not the actual losses," Singh said.
Soon after Singh's claims, BJP hit back, saying Singh was a "pawn in the hands of the Congress and the government".
"Why didn't R.P. Singh take up this matter while he was in the CAG? After retirement, he is making such claims. It is a campaign to malign the CAG and the PAC," said Joshi.
"This man (Singh) himself presented the report to the PAC. Why didn't he say that he did not agree at that time? All this is an attempt by the government to malign the CAG and R.P. Singh is a part of that attempt," he said.
"The government is targeting the institution of the CAG to hide its own misdemeanours. It is a part of that campaign," Joshi added.
BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad asked why did Singh, who retired in September 2011, keep quiet for one year.
The CAG, however, refused to join issue with its former auditor, saying it does not react to media reports.
"We do not react to media reports about our reports," a CAG official said tersely when IANS sought a response.
Rubbishing all of Singh's claims, the CAG official told IANS: "The CAG report in question (the Rs.1.76 lakh crore loss) bears the counter signature of R.P. Singh, who was the DG (director general) and was the auditor concerned for the telecom sector."
Singh's claims, however, have provided fodder for the ruling Congress party to go on the offensive against the BJP and the CAG.
After a meeting of the Congress core group, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi said she thought the BJP has been "exposed".
"Absolutely. I think so," Sonia Gandhi told reporters in the parliament complex when asked if the BJP's accusations had back-fired.
Joshi should clarify his stance on the controversy, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said.
"What is extremely important is that (in) May 2010, when the draft report is prepared by R.P. Singh, the loss is quantified at Rs.20,645 crore. But in November 2010, (when) the report is presented before the parliament, the loss jumps to Rs.1 lakh 76,000 crore," he said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said: "I believe the issue will be discussed in the parliament too."
The Left parties too wanted the BJP and the CAG to respond to the allegation.
Communist Party of India secretary D. Raja said the allegations against Joshi were serious, if one believed the retired auditor's claims.