By Prashant Sood
New Delhi, Sep 28 :
He stirred a hornet’s nest with his explosive CAG report on the allocation of 2G telecom spectrum, but Vinod Rai, now retired, is sticking to his guns, saying leadership in the UPA-II government was “very loose”, with parties pulling in different directions, but is dominant in the current National Democratic Alliance (NDA) dispensation.
Rai, whose book “Not Just An Accountant” (Rupa) was released earlier this month, said the bureaucracy has a greater sense of participation in the Narendra Modi government.
Rai, who was Comptroller and Auditor General during 2008-13, noted that on the basis of his little interaction with his former colleagues that there is a feeling among civil servants that they were being heard more.
“They certainly have a greater sense of participation in the government. They now don’t have a GOM (group of ministers) or an EGOM (empowered group of ministers) sitting on top of them. There is a secretary and there is a minister which is the hierarchical procedure. They feel they are being heard more,” Rai told IANS in an interview.
Rai also lauded Modi’s initiative to interact directly with top civil servants.
“I have a feeling it gives the officers some strength to their elbow.”
Asked about difference between the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and NDA, Rai said he cannot make the distinction as he was not in the government to know its working.
Pressed further, he said NDA appeared to have a leadership which is dominant.
“It seems there is dominance of leadership. But the way it is manifested (in government), I really can’t comment because I don’t have insider knowledge,” he said.
Rai said he had believed that the April-May Lok Sabha polls would throw up a hung parliament.
Asked how much his reports were responsible for the defeat of the UPA in the polls, he said they had initiated a debate. He said that factors that contributed to the UPA’s defeat included corruption and “total failure of governance”.
Answering a question, Rai said that parties that comprised the coalition in the UPA-II government (2009-14) were pulling in different directions and probably were not getting into a cohesive mode.
“It is very important for coalition politics to have one or two binding factors. May be a leader, may be political leadership. That leadership seems to have been very loose,” Rai said.
Rai said that he was addressing the young generation through his book as they want the government to be more accountable for its actions.
“The younger generation today is a very aware generation, very discerning and very demanding and they time and again want their viewpoint to be heard. They want the government to be accountable for its actions. That generation is what I am addressing. And I am trying to tell them in very simple language that the future for us is only if we consolidate on our governance,” he said.
Rai said that governance should be ethical, there should be transparency in decision-making and those taking decisions should be accountable.
The former CAG said that he had taken five case studies in his book, including the 2G spectrum allocation, and they reflected “different kinds of failures”. He said the facts had been gleaned from audit reports.
Asked about the responsibility of then prime minister Manmohan Singh in the 2G spectrum allocation controversy, Rai said if he had answered the letter of then communications minister A. Raja in a different way, the fate of UPA would probably have been different.
“To the extent that he was being informed of everything is very clear. Why he chose to take the decisions that he chose to take, that nobody has been able to find,” he said.
Rai said the UPA government could have taken correctives when the 2G controversy broke out.
“Instead of trying to justify, they should have said let’s tone up governance, take remedial steps,” he maintained.
Rai said while the CAG officials were called names by two Congress MPs during the meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which was examining the auditor’s report on 2G spectrum allocation and they had no option but to listen.
“These MPs called us names, they literally called us frauds, said our reports (were) full of untruths and that we were politically motivated. We had to sit there quietly and listen. Now my question is whom do I go for a remedy?” he asked.
Rai said that even though the then PAC chairman, Murli Manohar Joshi, had urged the MPs to withdraw their words and render an unqualified apology to the CAG for “wild allegations”, they “obviously did not do any of those things”.
“The debate I want to start is what is the accountability of elected members,” he said.
Rai said that he was prepared for criticism of his reports but did not realise it “will stoop to the level of personal attacks”.
As for the controversy related to the preparations for the Commonwealth Games, Rai said that it was the UPA government which appointed Suresh Kalmadi as chairman of the organising committee.
“That does not seem to be a right decision because it (the organising committee) was not a government body but was being entrusted with government funds to spend. Accountability was very diffused,” he said.
Rai said he had no political leanings and did not want to join electoral politics.
“My mental (make up) is that I cannot enter the hurly-burly of electoral politics. So it is not my cup of tea, that’s what I keep saying.”