The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has told the Defence Ministry that it may come and scrutinise 30 volumes of its files related to the Bofors gun deal, Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra told the Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday, sources said.
The Defence Secretary, consequently, has asked for a month’s time to return to the PAC to submit Action Taken Notes (ATN) on two paragraphs of the CAG report that had highlighted alleged irregularities in the purchase of the guns.
Incidentally, the Ministry hasn’t submitted the ATN to the PAC in the last 27 years since the CAG report was made public in 1990 — an issue on which PAC member BJP leader Nishikant Dubey as well as sub-committee chairman BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab had repeatedly questioned the Defence Ministry.
“The question that was asked today to the Defence Secretary was that when will they submit the ATNs. The Defence Secretary sought time till mid-September. The ministry had earlier sought time till mid- August,” said a source.
The source said that the government told the PAC that it would collect all reports related to the issue and get back to the panel with its response.
The sub-committee, which has no Congress member, had taken up the issue around two months ago and sought the ministry’s response on Para 11 of CAG report of 1989 and Para 9 of CAG report of 1990 on which the ministry had not submitted ATNs for last 27 years.
When the government argued that it didn’t have the relevant files to respond to these paras and suggested that the paras should be omitted from the record, an apparently irked PAC asked the Ministry to explore options to access the related files.
As the issue has repeatedly been raised by the PAC sub panel, bringing the focus back on the three-decade-old controversy, a section in the Congress has voiced its displeasure — the PAC is headed by senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
The question on the Bofors issue came up towards the end of the meeting whose listed agenda was presentations by the Defence Ministry on the issue of non-compliance of ATN on the review of procurement for the Kargil war based on a 2001 CAG report.