NEW DELHI,SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT:The controversy over the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal refuses to abate with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament becoming a new theatre of conflict between the BJP and the Congress. At the first meeting of the reconstituted committee BJP members demanded that a Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) report on the deal, submitted in 2013, be taken up by the committee.
BJP MP Vijay Goel raised this issue with chairman of the committee and Congress MP K.V. Thomas, and got support from Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Bhratruhari Mahtab, and Sukhendu Shekhar Roy of the Trinamool Congress.
In fact, Mr. Roy, in the presence of current C&AG Shashi Kant Sharma raised the issue of conflict of interest with regard to the latter, since he had been Defence Secretary then. Mr. Sharma had come to give the customary briefing on auditing processes to the committee.
Mr. Thomas, however, remained non-committal on whether the committee would take up the issue. “The C&AG report was submitted in 2013, when Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi was the chairman of the committee. He did not deem it noteworthy to take it up,” he reportedly said at the meeting.
“What new information has been added to the C&AG report from 2013 that it has to be taken up,” Mr. Thomas asked.
He also pointed out that an investigation and a court case was already going on, and therefore it would not “be proper” for the committee to go into the matter.
On the question of the current C&AG facing a “conflict of interest” with regard to his previous stint as Defence Secretary, Mr. Thomas said that all these matters had been gone into in the Supreme Court.
“These are all issues that had come up during Mr. Sharma’s appointment and had been dealt with then. What is the point now,” Mr. Thomas reportedly said.
Cites coal scam
Coming to the support of BJP MPs, Mr. Mahtab said there was no impediment in the PAC examining such matters, including those being probed by investigative agencies or courts. He cited the coal scam. “If the C&AG report on coal allocation can be looked at, then why not this?” Mr. Mahtab said.