Former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai has opened a can of rotten worms over the UPA government's 10-year rule that saw humongous scams jolt the nation, and he indicted former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of not doing anything to prevent them despite being in the know.
But more than just tarnishing Singh reputation over his knowledge of irregularities in allocations of 2G spectrum and coal blocks, the revelations have put in perspective a more sorry picture – that these scams could actually have been prevented and crores of public money could have been saved.
While the 2G scam resulted in losses of ₹1.76 lakh crore, the Coalgate cost the nation, ₹1.86 lakh crore, and the civil aviation minister's pressure on Air India to buy more planes cost us at least $5,000 million more.
2G Scam, with Loss of ₹1.76 Lakh Crore, Could Have Been Prevented by Singh: Rai
The fact that the 2G scam, which involved irregularities in allocation of 2G spectrum by former telecom ministers A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran, costs the national exchequer a mind-numbing ₹1.76 lakh crore is known, but the fact that PM Singh was fully aware of the goings-on comes as a shocker.
According to Rai, former Telecom Minister A Raja had written letters to Singh about 2G allocations and the PM used to reply to him twice a day.
"All matters of importance goes to the PM. All the bucks stop on the desk of the PM. The then Commerce Minister Kamal Nath wrote to the PM expressing concern on the developments on the 2G front. Even the finance and law ministries had expressed their reservations in their respective communication to the PM," Rai said.
Kamal Nath has also claimed that he had cautioned Singh.
"I wrote to the Prime Minister that I am hearing all sorts of things are going on in 2G allocation. The PM chose to do nothing," Nath said.
Rai revealed that Nath and the finance minister wanted to discuss about 2G spectrum allocation policy in the Group of Ministers panel, but Singh never obliged, and rather allowed Raja to go ahead with the spectrum sale.
According to Rai, when he informed the government about the loss of ₹1.76 lakh in November 2010, the PM had told him that he had "not done the computation of figures in the right way."
Coalgate - the Scam that Cost the Nation ₹1.86 Lakh crore, Pushed Country into Power Crisis
From what has come to light from the CAG's revelations, Manmohan Singh was as much in the know of the Coalgate scam as he was in the 2G scam, and he could have prevented it, thus stopping losses of an estimated ₹1.86 lakh crore.
What is more angering is that Singh's irresponsibility could have pushed the nation towards a grave power crisis, with Rai revealing that 56 out of the 57 coal blocks that were allocated after 2005 remained unused.
"56 out 57 coal blocks that were allocated after 2005 remained unused. You cannot sit with a coal block when the power crisis in the country is so serious. Power production has coal and fuel linkages," the former CAG said.
"The then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and I had jointly cautioned Singh on Coalgate. But he chose not to do anything," Rai revealed.
He further added that the "the former coal secretary PC Parakh had actually warned the PM that the screening process of firms for coal blocks was actually leading to windfall gains for some firms."
Commonwealth Games Scam that Shamed the Nation, Occurred Because of Singh's Decision
According to Rai, Manmohan Singh let an unaccountable Indian Olympic Association, under Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi, deal with a huge amount of taxpayers' money during the Commonwealth Games.
Instead of mandating a minister with the responsibility of hosting the games, the Manmohan Singh-government gave the charge to the Indian Olympic Association, which was then headed by Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi, Rai said.
"The problem is the Indian Olympic Association, which Kalmadi was then heading was not accountable to the government. The appointment was incorrect in form and in substance as he had the money of the exchequer to exploit without accountability. If someone accountable to the government or Parliament like the sports minister had been made the chief this scam might not have occurred," Rai said.
'Praful Patel Forced Debt-Ridden Air India to Buy More Planes. Costs Went up by $5,000 Million'
In his explosive box of revelations of the UPA government, Rai also revealed that former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had "nudged" Air India to buy more than just 28 planes approved for purchase in 2004, though the airline was in deep debt.
Air India finally went on to buy 68 planes, 40 more than proposed, at a cost of ₹38,000 crore or $6,000 million, about five times higher than the earlier estimate of $1,000 million, Rai pointed out.
"97% of this purchase amount was going to be debt. I don't think any airline can survive by such a huge debt," Rai said.